Thursday, November 6, 2008

Selling Continues as Investors Await Jobs Report

The post-election selling spree that began on Wednesday continued uninterrupted on Thursday, as investors took short-lived gains across the board in advance of Friday's expected blockbuster Nonfarm Payroll report, due out prior to the market open, at 8:30 am ET.

Retracing the massive gains made in the six sessions leading up to and including election day (Oct. 27 - Nov. 4), the Dow has lopped off nearly 1000 points in just the last two days as it wends it's way inexorably towards a retest of the low at 8175.

Dow 8,695.79 -443.48; NASDAQ 1,608.70 -72.94; S&P 500 904.88 -47.89; NYSE Composite 5,667.40 -344.77

Despite claims by some woefully misinformed political analysts who believe the market's performance is somehow a Wall Street referendum on the election of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th President, more astute analysis insists that investors are quickly taking profits before they are completely wiped away with the fallout from the very scary jobs report which may show US employers shedding as many as 200,000 positions in October.

Adding to the malaise on Thursday were the somewhat expected poor showing by retailers, many of which posted declines in same-store sales from the October period a year ago. That retailers would suffer in the midst of a recession is rather old news and hardly worth a check mark on the short list. The two-day pounding taken by oil prices is much more interesting and actually a bright spot for strapped consumers. More on that below.

Market internals continued to confirm the headline numbers. Advancing issues were overwhelmed again by decliners, 5133-1230. New lows expanded the gap over new highs, 357-13. Not only have new lows exceeded new highs every day except five or six for over a year now, but the number of new highs has shrunk to levels not seen in many years. It is indicative of an economic tsunami that is battering every sector and sparing all but a few stocks. Just about any individual share price is down by at least 20% from a year ago, with many off by 50-70% or more.

Volume was higher today than yesterday, indicating another flushing out of weak-kneed profit-takers.

NYSE Volume 1,525,795,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,510,131,000

As mentioned earlier, oil took another major hit, despite announced cuts by OPEC. Crude for December delivery lost $4.53, hitting $60.77, a 20-month low. Gold declined another $10.20, to $732.20, with some analysts expecting a bottom in the $650 range. It could go lower even than that. Silver fell 40 cents to $10.06, remaining the most skittish of the metals. Since silver has some industrial demand as well as intrinsic value, holders and dealers have not been quite able to grasp a price range for long. The price continues to yo-yo wildly.

Tomorrow's Nonfarms Payroll report from the Labor Department will come on top of today's revelation that the number of Americans drawing unemployment is now the highest in 25 years. Should the Dow spiral down below the 8175 mark, investors should brace for more selling in weeks and months ahead.

Despite the inordinately positive news of Obama's presidency, there are still 2 1/2 months until he officially takes the reins of power. While David Letterman and others wish he could get started sooner, the world - or what's left of it - must wait until January 20, 2009. It is upon that date and in the 30-60 days immediately following, that will determine our economic fates for years to come.

Plans are no doubt already afoot for another stimulus package aimed this time at taxpayers instead of bankers, but it will take much more than government hand-outs to repair what's broken in America's financial markets. The high of 14,250 on the Dow was just a year ago, but it seems so much further away than that now.

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