Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Rally Over, Stocks Resume Slide

Following yesterday's massive Fed-induced, short-seller rally, Wall Streeters tried in vain to make it two in a row... and failed.

With healthy gains on the board by 11:00 am (the Dow was up nearly 150 points), stocks sent the remainder of the session losing value. There was no specific news of import to move stocks, simply the general feeling that the economy as a whole is less likely to improve before it deteriorates further.

Dow 12,110.24 -46.57; NASDAQ 2,243.87 -11.89; S&P 500 1,308.77 -11.88; NYSE Composite 8,781.23 -61.45

It's relatively simple to understand where investors are getting the majority of their negative sentiment of late. Oil and gas prices are exploding, as are food prices, while home sales and prices are down and the credit crunch seems far from resolved. Add a falling dollar to the mix, stir gently and viola you have less disposable income for consumers who are tightening their belts, which usually translates into lower corporate profits.

What may be driving Wall Street's declines more than anything, however, is the absolute dearth of leadership from Washington. Investors are concerned about their futures and all they see from D.C. is stagnation and a lack of solutions. America, over the past 7 years of the Bush administration and a strangled congress, has been reduced to a nation of haves and have-nots. The trouble is that the haves cannot survive well without the have-nots having something. The middle class is being shoved down to a survival class with no means of upward mobility. Such a system cannot and will not work in the longer term.

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There's also a feeling that the Fed has become impotent to a large degree and since announcing yet another option to salvage battered banking interests, another rate cut next week may not be forthcoming. The Fed meets on Tuesday, March 18, to discuss the federal funds rate. Analysts had been looking for a 50 to 75 basis point reduction, but since yesterday many have trimmed that outlook to 25 to 50 basis points.

While today's trading range was not great, the breadth of the losses were significant. Declining issues retook the lead over gainers, 3747-2536, and new lows beat new highs, 327-82.

Oil continued to reach new heights, adding $1.17 to close at $109.92. Gold gained $4.70 to $980.70, while silver was up 23 cents to close at an even $20.00.

Naturally, everybody wants to know what's next. Some answers may come as early as tomorrow as February retail sales figures and the most recent unemployment claims hit the street prior to the opening bell.

The news on the retail front is not likely to be cheery, though only a small decline - 0.1% - is expected.

NYSE Volume 4,314,355,000
Nasdaq Volume 2,158,134,250

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