Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wall Street is Stuck

Despite the marginal gain on the Dow today, all other indices traded lower, with the composites (NASDAQ and NYSE) leading declines.

Dow 12,289.76 +9.44; NASDAQ 2,448.94 -10.52; S&P 500 1,358.44 -3.32; NYSE Composite 9,067.10 -81.99

While there was little economic or corporate news upon which to chew, traders were treated to a silly show from the US Senate, where Republicans defeated a bill to impose windfall profits taxes on oil companies.

Actually, the repugnant Republicans in the Senate didn't defeat the bill, they merely kept it from coming to the floor for debate. Democrats, including presidential candidate Barack Obama, promise to revisit the issue again... and again... and again, likely using the lack of debate as an election issue until the Republicans either give in or risk a landslide for Democrats in the fall elections.

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My guess is that they'll cave in to public pressure around Labor Day, after all the damage from $4.50 a gallon gas will have been done. They're like that... evil, uncaring, unrepentant, unscrupulous and in bed with oil money lobbyists.

As for the market internals, they were once again markedly negative. Declining issues led advancers, 3911-2335. New lows once again dominated new highs, 399-71. Along with yesterday, the spread today is signaling - quite loudly - an abrupt directional spike, and it's likely to be to the downside. We should be very close to a complete weak-hands wash-out which could occur at any time.

For a change, commodities took one on the chin. Oil traded $3.03 lower, settling at $131.31. Gold fell by a massive amount, down $26.40, to $871.70, while silver lost 58 cents to $16.64.

Continued weakness in commodity prices, besides being a welcome respite to worldwide inflationary pressures, may also be signaling something more nefarious - a vicious deflationary cycle.

While the Fed presumptively lowered interest rates last year and through the first half of 2008, economic conditions have not improved by any measurable degree. What commodities are telling us is that credit and cash markets are tight, consumers are on the edge of their personal budgetary limits and market dislocations are becoming more and more apparent.

Prices are not rising quickly, if at all, in some areas (and they're actually declining in the most expensive items - homes and autos), and the big boost in all things petrol-based may be more an exception than the norm.

If there are still brains among the various governors at the Federal Reserve, they may see an opening to keep rates steady or actually increase them slightly as a hedge for the battered US dollar. A strengthened dollar, or even the appearance that the US is once more on a reasonable path to growth, would do wonders to the price structures of the oil, gas and energy markets.

It may be simply wishful thinking, but there is some handwriting on the economic wall, even if it's been scrawled in vanishing ink.

As the markets digested a smorgasbord of economics, opinions and theories, volume was anemic.

NYSE Volume 1,387,509,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,067,336,000

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