Thursday, September 18, 2008

US Stocks Gain on Treasury Plan Rumor and Innuendo

Briefly, how the Dow gained 400 points after losing 450 on Wednesday:

  • Before the markets open, the Federal Reserve, along with the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank inject $180 billion into into financial markets in an effort to add liquidity.

  • By 10:00 am, the plan seems to be working. The Dow Jones Industrials are up 200 points.

  • Investors, still shaken from Monday and Wednesday's fallout, begin to sell. By noon, the Dow is unchanged. By 1:00 pm, it is down nearly 150 points.

  • In a rocky afternoon session, the Dow regains its positive footing, but by 2:45 it is just above the unchanged mark.

  • CNBC reports that Treasury Secretary Paulson is in talks with congress about creating a pool for bad debt, similar to the Resolution Trust Corp. which helped clean up the savings & loan mess in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

  • By 3:00 pm, the Dow is back up 200 points and adds another 200 in the closing hour.

Naturally, the idea behind the Fed money-pumping and Paulson's late-day desperate jawboning are efforts in futility. Bad debt is bad debt, plain and simple. Wall St. wheelers and dealers made bonehead loans without proper regulatory supervision and now the federal government is supposed to bail them out.

Throwing money at the markets in overnight loans and swaps has proven - over the last 13 months of declining stock values - to be a purely stop-gap affair. Paulson's plan has little chance of finding sponsors in congress and even less opportunity to be acted upon anytime soon. Congress goes into recess at the end of the month, less than two weeks ahead.

But, that doesn't stop the CNBC equity pimps from applauding every single rumor or gesture by either Treasury Secretary Paulson or Fed head Bernanke. The two are have been anointed as infallible. And the gullibility of investors cannot be underestimated. Today's late surge was supposed to indicate that the crisis had passed... at least for now.

Elsewhere, Morgan Stanley (MS), one of only two remaining investment banks (the other is Goldman Sachs), is apparently in talks to be acquired by Wachovia Bank (WB). As odd as that combination sounds, Wachovia, itself under scrutiny be investors for a shaky balance sheet, rocketed up 59% on the day, from 9.12 to 14.50. Morgan Stanley gained over 3%.

Apparently, combining two failing companies into one will magically transform the remaining single entity into a financial powerhouse. Over the past 12 months, Wachovia has lost 75-80% of shareholder value. It traded as high as 53 per share last year. Morgan Stanley has dropped from nearly 70 to 22, a 68% decline.

Washington Mutual or WaMu, the nation's largest savings and loan bank, also got a boost, though hardly one of any significance, gaining 98 cents to close at 2.99. The stock is down more than 80% from a year ago. Goldman Sachs is attempting to find a buyer or additional funds for the troubled institution.

It's a real morass of bad money chasing more bad money. Wall Street's finances haven't been in such a state of chaos since the Great Depression and these mergers and fixes still fail to address the underlying cause - highly leveraged debt-to-equity and derivatives of staggering magnitude.

These repairs also don't offer any hope to the hosing market or the flagging economy. They are nothing more than chimeras, designed to keep the public unaware of the significance of the crisis. 98 out of 100 Americans actually don't have any idea of what is really occurring, but they do know that - in an overall sense of the game - today's gains canceled out yesterday's losses.

Dow 11,019.69 +410.03; NASDAQ 2,199.10 +100.25; S&P 500 1,206.51 +50.12; NYSE Composite 7,775.16 +334.77

The late-day rally lifted most boats but not all. Advancing issues had a huge edge over losers, 4811-1648. It was not enough to register one of the most unbalanced reading in new highs vs. new lows. 169 stocks made new highs, but 1438 reached new 52-week lows.

Gold was once again in the spotlight, rising $46.50, to close in New York at $897.00. Gold is up $118 in just two days. Silver gained $1.03 to $12.70. The move in the metals begs the question: If everything is all good now, why are investors flocking to safe havens like the metals and bonds?

Oil even managed a small gain of 58 cents, to close at $97.54, after briefly topping the $100 mark earlier in the day. Strangely enough, what was the topic of heated discussion just weeks ago - oil - has now faded to the back pages.

Volume was absolutely off the charts in one of the most volatile and high volume days of the year. Considering so much money was pumped into the markets by central bankers, that should not be a surprise. Nor should the dramatic climb of the indices. After all, most of the trading was nothing more than shady self-dealing.

NYSE Volume 2,430,078,000
NASDAQ Volume 3,914,326,000

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