Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Markets Up Sharply As Financials Power Ahead

Investors were treated to a rare turnaround Tuesday as stocks shot up, erasing the declines from Monday in suspicious trade.

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While oil dropped once more, financial stocks were the main focus, racking up outsize gains, despite continuing economic woes. Volume was incredibly light, suggesting organized pumping by the Fed and their Wall Street proxies to keep the indices from falling back to mid-July levels.

Dow 11,397.56 +266.48; NASDAQ 2,319.62 +55.40: S&P 500 1,263.19 +28.82; NYSE Composite 8,419.20 +159.01

Think the market isn't subject to special situations and insider trading? Think again. Here's what had to say about the past two days of trading in Merrill Lynch (MER) and the financial sector:

In an effort to reduce its risk exposure and shore up its balance sheet, Merrill Lynch (MER 26.32, +1.99) is selling $30.6 billion worth of U.S. ABS CDOs for only $0.22 on the dollar, or $6.7 billion. The assets were valued at $11.1 billion at the end of the second quarter, meaning the sale will result in a $4.4 billion pretax write-down. Merrill has taken $51.8 billion in write-downs and credit losses since the credit market turmoil began last year -- second only to Citigroup's (C 18.46, +1.03) $54.6 billion.

Merrill also raised $8.55 billion in a common stock offering at $22.50 per share, making the sale dilutive to existing shareholders. Merrill's stock fell 9.5% to a 10-year low shortly after the open, only to rebound and finish the day 8.2% higher. Merrill's stock dropped nearly 12% during the previous session on no specific news item, so the market may have already been pricing in some of the latest write-down and capital raising news.

The financial sector ended the session with a massive 7.5% gain, as traders speculated that the Merrill news indicated better times are ahead for financial firms.

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That final paragraph is nothing more than a guess about how Wall Street reversed Monday's losses. The truth more likely is that of a combined effort by Wall Street's favored banks and brokerages to save their souls.

The US economy remains in tatters. Tuesday's gains were made mostly by the bankers and brokers themselves.

Advancers led decliners, 4660-1651. New lows remained ahead of new highs, 233-80.

Gold 926.40 -11.40
Silver 17.38 -0.09
Light Sweet Crude Oil 122.19 -2.54

NYSE Volume 1,405,967,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,318,781,000

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