Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fizzled Rally Syndrome

Stocks traded in lazy fashion on Thursday, buoyed by news that China's government would cut some of its subsidy on gasoline, thus raising prices at the pump in the People's Republic.

This was generally viewed as good news while the US media focused on the phony issue of off-shore drilling and exploration. The truth is that a rise in the price of gas in China is better news than any off-shore drilling would supply over the next 5 years.

Since the price of oil - and gas - is largely out of the control of supply-demand economics and more the function of speculation, the only likely beneficiaries of new drilling or lowering subsidies are oil companies, and we're stuck with them for the foreseeable future.

Dow 12,063.09 +34.03; NASDAQ 2,462.07 +32.36; S&P 500 1,342.83 +5.02; NYSE Composite 8,988.86 -10.72

On the whole, trading was somewhat suspect, with the major indices trading in a tight range tilted only slightly to the positive. In fact, all of Thursday's gains on the Dow could have been made between 2:00 and 3:00 pm. Before and after that was more or less noise and stocks fell noticeably after 3:00 pm.

On the day, advancing and declining issues played a tug-of-war, resulting in a meager victory for the gainers, which ended ahead, 3304-2914. New lows beat new highs again, 444-151.

The tone of investing over the past four sessions indicates a general lack of enthusiasm which almost always results in either outright declines or what I like to call fizzled rally syndrome.

In the latter instance, stocks rise on some - any - kind of positive news, then topple over like an unstable pile of bricks, leaving marginal gains for some, and losses for many. That was today. Tomorrow may be different, but probably, it will be more of the same, low-volume, disinterested kind of trade.

Oil ended happily lower by $4.57, a rather large loss, settling at $132.60. Gold broke over a key psychological barrier, finishing the day $10.70 higher, at $904.20. Silver rose in sympathy, up 13 cents to $17.47.

Following today's scant economic news (Philly Fed -17.1, -15.6 prior month; leading indicators up 0.1%; initial claims -5K), there's nothing on the calendar for Friday, so investors should expect the week to end with the same dull thud with which it began.

In the immortal word of the Mogambo Guru, "ugh."

NYSE Volume 1,199,263,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,274,517,000

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