Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bernanke, Paulson Speak, Markets Sink

One would suppose, with three-quarters of the Plunge Protection Team (PPT) busy testifying before congress, that there would be nobody at the controls to prevent a market sell-off.

That's precisely what happened - be it coincidence or otherwise - on Thursday, as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and SEC Chairman Christopher Cox delivered testimony on the economy to Senate Banking Committee members.

In their remarks, both Bernanke and Paulson both indicated they felt the economy was in a somewhat delicate condition, owing mostly to a continuing credit crisis in which bankers have had difficulty lending to any but the most credit-worthy applicants.

What their remarks did not reveal, though hinted at, was that the bankers themselves were the cause of the precarious credit conditions, by participating in the massive fraud and deception that is now the subprime mortgage and related derivative investment mess.

And what a mess it is. Bank of America report released today suggested that the losses related to subprime mortgages was more than $7.7 trillion globally.

Another money center was hit with unfortunate fallout on Thursday, adding to the market's woes. Swiss financial giant UBS revealed a net loss of 4.4 billion Swiss francs ($4.0 billion dollars, $2.7 billion euros) in 2007, including an $18 billion writedown in damaged securities.

Dow 12,376.98 -175.26; NASDAQ 2,332.54 -41.39; S&P 500 1,348.86 -18.35; NYSE Composite 8,968.41 -105.07

Today's losses nearly matched yesterday's outsized gains, and even though the markets are higher for the week, momentum has clearly swung back to the bears. Declining issues outpaced advancers, 4720-1530, while new lows expanded the gap over new highs, 203-97.

Friday's economic reports include the NY Empire State Index and capacity utilization, though neither will likely weigh more on investors than today's dire and apprehensive assertions by Paulson, Cox and Bernanke.

Volume continues to be on the tepid side, as money largely sits, awaiting a safe entry point or going elsewhere.

Oil gained another $2.19 today, closing at $95.46. For the second day in a row, precious metals barely budged. Gold was up 80 cents to $911.00; silver lost 10 cents to $17,26.

Here's a tip. Buy sugar futures and sell corn futures. It's seven times more efficient to produce ethanol from sugar than from corn. On top of that, Tata Motors (TTM) is financing in a company which has tested and is producing a car that runs on air. That should serve as quite a blow to the oil barons.

NYSE Volume 3,630,146,750
NASDAQ Volume 2,270,238,000

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