Monday, December 8, 2008

More Bank for the Buck Monday

Investors followed up Friday's dazzling rally - on the heels of one of the worst monthly jobs reports ever - with another day of inexplicable gains for beaten-down stocks. all of the major indices recorded gains of at least 3% on the day, boosting the averages back above levels prior to last Monday's near-fatal crash.

Dow 8,934.18, +298.76 (3.46%)
NASDAQ 1,571.74, +62.43 (4.14%)
S&P 500 909.70, +33.63 (3.84%)
NYSE Composite 5,639.68, +238.43 (4.41%

That puts the onus clearly on the most speculative players on the street, as stocks have, as of today, reached levels oddly reminiscent of mid-October, when the economy and the stock market (a leading indicator) were in the throes of one of the worst down-trends of all time.

Clearly, there is something missing in the equation. Investors were dumping stocks for months, culminating in a pair of deep dives to unprecedented levels on October 27 (Dow 8175) and then November 20 (Dow 7552). Since then, nothing has really changed. As a matter of conjecture, conditions have likely worsened, bringing into play the possibility of massive short-covering on both Friday of last week and today.

The non-farm labor report released on December 5, which portrayed the US economy as teetering on the brink with a net loss of over 1/2 million jobs serves as a backdrop to whatever trading has followed. While slashing jobs are generally viewed as good for the balance sheet, the sheer size of November's losses (to say nothing of the revised figures from September and October) must give one pause to consider the general health of the overall economy.

Even the argument that US companies are insulated against US job losses because of their now-global stature fails to hold water. The rest of the world's labor force is being similarly downsized, crimping demand for all manner of products. Retail sales, auto sales and commodity prices are all lower. stocks continue to recover, however. The depth of the denial in the minds of investors and Wall St analysts is stunning.

On the day, advancing issues held sway over decliners, 5153-1637. Today's gap-up did manage to quell the swelling in the number of new lows, which shrank to just 164. There were, however, only 29 new highs. Volume was at normal levels. All this indicates is that investors are still day-trading. No real trend exists except the persistent signs of a solidly bearish market.

NYSE Volume 7,334,573,000
Nasdaq Volume 2,340,814,750

Commodities were mostly priced higher. Oil rebounded $3.11, to $43.92. Gold climbed $22.00, closing at $774.20 in New York, while silver jumped 59 cents, to $10.02.

There was little in the way of genuine news. Congress is still mulling plans to either loan or give money to the Big Three automakers - Ford, GM and Chrysler - though there has been some grumbling about Chrysler, since they have been in private hands for over two years now, owned by Cerberus Capital Partners, a private equity buyout firm. UAW has made comments seeking a board seat and other management concessions in exchange for wage cuts. The price of the Big 3 Bailout is somewhere between $15 billion and $34 billion, though the estimates continue to point toward the lower end of that range.

Media conglomerate, Tribune Co., sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, though, in a pique of irony, kept the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field out of the protective umbrella. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. Tribune owns some highly-regarded media properties, including the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, the Baltimore Sun and Chicago superstation WGN.

They are the first major newspaper chain to seek bankruptcy protection, but surely won't be the last. It just goes to show the value system in America today: bankers get bailouts; writers get rocks.

No comments: