Thursday, January 17, 2008

Merrill Lynch Wasn't Speaking, Listening or Paying Attention

Thursday's activity on Wall Street more resembled a mad scramble for the exits than an orderly trading session. After a brief excursion into the forbidden land of UP, the major averages all fell into negative territory at 10:00 and remained there for the rest of the day.

The main driver was once again a beleaguered banking and investment outfit, this time the veritable Merrill Lynch (MER). The company ads from years bygone used to tout, "When Merrill Lynch speaks, people listen." Well, Merrill certainly got lynched today, and good, as the company posted a colossal loss of $12.01 per share, the worst in the firm's 94-year history. In actual dollar terms, the total was $9.91 billion. Additionally, Merrill wrote down $14.6 billion in bad debt, mostly mortgage-related.

Huge Profits in Options
Stocks go up and down. Make money in both directions with exclusive options advisor.
Wall Streeters took notice, slamming the stock down to $49.45 (-5.64), a 10% haircut.

During the morning affairs, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke to Congress about the condition of the economy, wryly stating the obviously false: that the Fed thought the economy would not fall into recession, rather that growth would be slow.

On the other hand, the chairman urged congress to swiftly propose and pass "stimulus" legislation, and those remarks obviously rattled traders as stocks began to tumble as he spoke.

Also contributing to the steep declines, the Philadelphia Fed regional manufacturing survey came in at -20.9, its lowest number since October 2001, and far below the consensus estimate of -1.5. Any negative number reflects a contraction in manufacturing in the region, and this number was serious.

Dow 12,159.21 -306.95; NASDAQ 2,346.90 -47.69; S&P 500 1,333.25 -39.95; NYSE Composite 8,818.95 -254.48

The extent of the carnage was obvious, even to the most casual observer. All of the major indices fell to levels not seen since last March, and, in the case of the S&P 500, the close was the worst since October, 2006.

Certainly, the worst is not nearly over for the US economy nor for stocks. While in November of last year, there were those doubting that we were looking squarely at a market correction, we find today these same types doubting the existence of a bear market.

Let's get one thing clear, right here, right now: We are in the beginning of the second stage of a serious bear market. The second stage (the one we are currenlty in) is where the steepest losses occur.

The next 6-9 months will be extremely challenging to anyone who is either holding or buying stocks for gains.

Only nimble traders playing bounces or astute market adherents going short or playing puts in the options markets will come out of this period unscathed.

On the day, declining issues trampled advancers, 5189-1195. This is not yet at the preferred washout level of a 5-1 or better ratio, so the indication is still heavily biased toward continued losses. New lows, which have held sway consistently over new highs every day save two since October 31, 2007, expanded again. There were 848 new lows to 78 new highs.

In the commodities market, oil eased again, losing 89 cents to $90.13. Gold lost -2.60 to $877.30, while silver dropped 9 cents per ounce to $15.81

With most of the severe investment bank earnings losses now out of the way, the market may be able to take a bit of a breather on Friday, but don't bet the bank on it. This is the worst environment for investors to chase gains and any upward movements will be met with waves of concerted selling.

NYSE Volume 5,536,065,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,836,430,000

No comments: