Monday, December 3, 2007

Stocks Chilled by Resistance

Stocks fell broadly on Monday, the first day of trading in the final month of 2007. If this is any indication of how trade will behave in December, we may be looking forward to a somewhat unhappy New Year.

On the Dow, resistance levels at or around, 13,500, were tested on Friday and shied further away on Monday, towing all other indices along to the downside. Continued fears of a full-blown recession in 2008 contributed to a quiet continuation of the trend lower. Market sentiment is decidedly defensive, citing unwinding problems stemming from the sub-prime mortgage and associated credit crises.

Dow 13,314.57 -57.15; NASDAQ 2,637.13 -23.83; S&P 500 1,472.42 -8.72; NYSE Composite 9,811.86 -44.99

Overhanging everything, as it is the Christmas season, are concerns that holiday shopping may fall short of expectations. With an additional weekend of shopping time as compared to last year, retailers may be forced to pull the trigger on markdowns sooner rather than later this time around.

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Retailers are necessarily nervous, as data on consumer spending and incomes, released last week, was hardly encouraging. Shoppers may have less in their wallets than last year and may also be waiting for deals equal to or better than were available on Black Friday.

It bears watching the major retailers to see which of them, if any, begin discounting earlier in the season than normal. Later this week, on Thursday, Wal-Mart and Target release November same-store sales figures, which will give some indication of what December may bring, but already analysts are wondering whether last week's good news (sales up as much as 8% at major retailers against last year) was due more to price (and profit) slashing following the Thanksgiving feast.

Whatever the case, investors voted by sending shares lower in advance of the numbers. Declines outweighed advances on Monday, 4013-2391, while new lows maintained their long-standing edge over new highs, 313-134, with the margin increasing over Friday's figures.

Commodities gained on the day, with oil up 60 cents to $89.31, gold higher by $5.60 and silver up five cents. Oil traded as low as $87.15 during the day, but rose as traders saw a continuation of high demand through the holidays and the possibility of a production increase by OPEC nations about a 50/50 proposition.

It could turn out to be a slow week on Wall Street with the really important numbers coming out on Thursday and Friday, when the government reports non-farm payroll numbers.

Hurry up and wait.

NYSE Volume 3,293,912,500
NASDAQ Volume 1,994,717,625

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