Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Short Squeeze Bounce

We all knew it was coming, didn't we?

Surely stocks could not continue to fall precipitously into the financial abyss as they have over the past month. Sooner or later there would be a Bear Trap, and that trap was sprung at 2:25 pm today.

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The Dow was sitting at break-even at that moment. From there to the close, it gained 152 points, as all indices finished solidly in the green.

There was ample reasoning for both the bullish and bearish case, though in the end, the plummeting price of crude oil took the market along for a merry ride upwards.

Dow 11,384.21 +152.25; NASDAQ 2,294.44 +51.12; S&P 500 1,273.69 +21.38; NYSE Composite 8,515.79 +115.58

Earlier in the day, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) produced another horrific report on the housing collapse, showing pending home sales for May down 4.7%, nearly 2% worse than expectations. The news was enough to send all the indices briefly into negative ground before noon.

Wholesale inventories were slightly improved, at 0.8%, better than last month's reading of 1.4%. When inventories are high, which they are now, it is a sure sign of sluggish business conditions. No surprise there or to any investors paying attention.

On the day, the internal numbers were a bit brighter than has been the norm. Advancing issues outperformed decliners, 4336-1995, a ratio of better than 2-1. New lows continued to dominate new highs, 806-52, and though that number is highly out of balance, it is better than yesterday's dismal reading.

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All of that makes sense in light of today's gains. The market had hit a temporary bottom, with new lows burying new highs. It was high time for a relief rally. The Dow actually put in a quadruple bottom in the 11,160-11,200 range. The key question is whether today's rally was more short-covering or speculation and whether it has legs to continue tomorrow. Judging by the strong close, the next few days could be troubling for short-sellers.

By the end of the week, however, the market could easily revert to protracted losses as earnings season gets into full swing. There have been warnings sounded and the high price of crude is likely to drag down profits all around.

Speaking of earnings, what had the market spooked was the traditional first company to report - Alcoa - which did so after the close. Skeptics were disappointed as the company said profits slid 24%, but still met expectations. Alcoa (AA) earned 66 cents as compared with the second quarter of '07, in which it earned 81 cents. The stock, battered during the regular session, beat expectations by .02.

As for commodities, crude oil took a major spill on Tuesday, losing $5.33, to close at $136.04. Oil is off nearly $10 since the high last Thursday, which coincided neatly with the busiest driving weekend of the year in the USA. Gold lost $5.50, to $923.30, while silver added 4 cents to $17.96. More evidence that the commodity boom is coming to a hasty conclusion.

As the balance of the week offers little in the way of either economic reports or corporate earnings releases, there may be some bottom fishing before the weekend. All bets are off after that, however.

NYSE Volume 1,728,487,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,499,119,000

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