Friday, May 16, 2008

Markets Finish Week Mixed

We are still in the midst of very turbulent times. Over the past nine months, since the blowup of the subprime mortgage market, the major indices have lost somewhere in the range of 8-12% of their value. Not bad, considering the difficulties faced by lenders, homeowners, small businesses and municipal governments, which have faced a plethora of unhealthy conditions including tight credit, general inflation, falling home values, high energy prices and not much in the way of assistance or direction from government.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke tells us that conditions in credit markets have improved, though that's not much solace for consumers who have had to trade off some stability in the credit markets via lower interest rates for a weaker dollar. The result has been higher prices for basic necessities - food and fuel - though these matters haven't seemed to have any noticeable affect on corporate profits.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen said the economy would rebound in the second half of 2008. We've been hearing that refrain for the last six months, though without a good explanation as to why. (Personally, I have no confidence in Paulsen and consider him somewhat of a hollow suit.) Today, in prepared remarks, Paulsen again repeated that the stimulus checks to American taxpayers, plus breaks for business would produce 500,000 new jobs in the last six months of the year. Wishful thinking, for sure, but remember, he's using very slanted government statistics, so the odds that the figures will ring true by November (election time) are good.

Dow 12,986.80 -5.86; NASDAQ 2,528.85 -4.88; S&P 500 1,425.35 +1.78; NYSE Composite 9,603.01 +49.49

Friday's trade could best be described as subdued, as there were few newsy items upon which to trade. The good news from the construction sector - an 8.2% jump in residential housing - was tempered when the Commerce Department reported most of the gain was due to apartment building, not new single-family homes.

Consumer confidence hit a 28-year low while oil gained $2.17 to close at $126.29, another record high. Gold gained $19.90 to $899.90, while silver moved up 28 cents to $16.96.

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Declining issues edged advancers on Friday, 3010-2859. New highs surged past new lows, 252-162, reversing yesterday's decision, another sign of turbulence or volatility.

While the markets were up this week, they are basically unchanged over the past two. Until there is some upside thrust, direction and bias remains sideways to lower.

NYSE Volume 1,314,786,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,276,973,000

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