Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bear Market Norm: Stocks Give Up Early Gains

Any stock trader or analyst worth his/her salt will tell you that a tell-tale sign of a bear market is for markets to rise in the morning, only to give back all of those gains later in the day.

As traders got back to work on Tuesday following the long weekend, their senses returned about 2:15 as stocks took a serious nose dive from the high platform set earlier. By the time the session ended, it was more of the usual misery, except for the NYSE Composite, which closed with a modest gain.

The indices took their usual gyrations in the final hour with all the grace of a drunken albatross, zig-zagging to the close, which, for the main, was much closer to the bottom than the top of the day's trading range.

Finding a culprit for today's demise is difficult. Financials were battered once again, as were techs, especially Google (GOOG), possibly being viewed as an overpriced luxury in this market. Or, it could have been the price of oil, which approached $100 on the day, though that mostly boosted the energy sector, which actually does profit from the pain of consumers in the form of higher prices on everything from heating fuel to gasoline.

Dow 12,337.22 -10.99; NASDAQ 2,306.20 -15.60; S&P 500 1,348.78 -1.21; NYSE Composite 9,023.04 +52.28

While the overall losses were unsubstantial, the drop from the early highs were somewhat dramatic. The Dow lost over 200 points from the day's highs and the NASDAQ shed 46 from the day's top.

Advancers and decliners were nearly even, with 3325 up and 2992 down. New lows continued to dominate new highs, 234-99.

As mentioned earlier, crude oil shot up again, adding $4.41 to close at a record $100.01. Seems all those commentators suggesting a drop in demand missed the memo from the sheiks and thieves. Oil isn't going down. As a last-gasp, the price of oil will go kicking and screaming into the stratosphere unless people take action and simply stop using the stuff (or stealing lots of it).

The precious metals went ballistic, with gold gaining $23.70 to $929.80 and silver up 39 cents to $17.51. The underlying story with gold is that there must have been another mad dash for cash today, which would also explain the turnaround in the markets. Obviously, the credit crunch is still alive and grinding down banks and financiers with alarming efficiency.

CPI numbers are due to be released tomorrow morning. Get ready for more inflation noise and more selling of US equities. Volume remains at suppressed levels. That may change soon.

NYSE Volume 3,472,779,000
NASDAQ Volume 1,918,283,000

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