Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stocks Drop on Low Volume

The inevitable has occurred on Wall Street. Investors, like many other hip, urbane global citizens have figured out that US equities are not the only game on Wall Street, or Fleet Street or in Shanghai, Tokyo, Stockholm, Bombay or any other financial center.

Thus, when the US economy appears shaky, investors look elsewhere. There are stock markets and exchanges everywhere. It's one of the effects of globalization. One of the unintended consequences, to be sure, for Americans, but it is there, and it could be devastating.

On a level playing field, American companies compete with those from China, India, Europe, the Middle East, South America, Australia and everywhere else capital and public companies can be found, which, these days, is just about anywhere on the planet.

Dow 12,160.30 -108.78; NASDAQ 2,457.73 -17.05; S&P 500 1,350.93 -9.21; NYSE Composite 9,074.41 -13.47

With summer on the rise, volume on the US exchanges is usually lower, though this season seems even less vigorous than usual. It's been weeks of sub-par volume on the NYSE and NASDAQ with no end in sight. Today, investors were selling, and it didn't take much to push stocks back to their lowest levels since March.

Adding to investor concerns were today's PPI results from May, which showed producer prices increasing at a 1.4% clip, though this marked jump was almost all attributable to gains in fuel and food, as the core rate increased only 0.2% for the month.

Housing starts fell to their lowest level since 1991, at 975,000 units, which, though more of the same old news, was still an unwelcome reminder that one of the great asset classes was still skidding downhill.

Even more important, though sparsely reported by the bulk of the established economic press, were capacity utilization which fell to 79.4% in May, from 79.6% in the prior month, and industrial production, which notched a -0.2% figure over the same period, adding to the -0.7 drop in April.

Both of these numbers border on dismal. Optimally, capacity utilization should be above 94% and industrial production should be rising, not falling. These are both ominous signs of the considerable risk of recession, or, further proof that the US economy is already receding.

Advancing issues were overwhelmed by decliners, 3647-2327. New lows once again scored past new highs, 189-153, though the majority of the new lows came from the NASDAQ.

Oil fell by 81 cents, to $134.53. Gold was up marginally as well, gaining 60 cents to $886.90. Silver advanced 16 cents to $17.08 the ounce.

For the second consecutive session, the lack of volume was the leading story.

NYSE Volume 1,093,504,000
NASDAQ Volume 1,830,339,000

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