Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Short Session, Small Gains

US equity markets closed early (1:00 pm), ahead of Christmas Eve, but investors took the opportunity to make some small purchases despite more gloomy economic news.

Dow 8,468.48, +48.99 (0.58%)
NASDAQ 1,524.90, +3.36 (0.22%)
S&P 500 865.42, +2.26 (0.26%)
NYSE Composite 5,487.33, +19.05 (0.35%)

New unemployment claims ratcheted higher in the most recent week, adding 586,000 to the roles of the unemployed. In a related note, much later in the day, Hilary Kramer predicted on PBS's Nightly Business Report that while government data would show unemployment at 10% in 2009, though the "real" unemployment - including discouraged workers the government does not count - may go as high as 20%.

Folks, those are near-depression numbers. during the Great Depression of the 1930s, unemployment was as high as 25% at some of the worst depths of the downturn. One of of five workers idled in today's economy is going to have a huge ripple effect, some of which we're seeing even now. With the official rate at 6.7% (a trifling) today, the "real" rate is likely closer to 13 or 14% already with no end in sight.

January should prove interesting in the least, when retailers add up their paltry results from the worst Christmas shopping season since 1968. There could be wholesale shuttering of stores across vast swaths of the retail landscape, leaving malls with gaping holes and no new tenants.

Other economic figures weren't spreading much holiday cheer. Personal spending slowed by 0.6% in November, and durable goods orders slipped 1.0%, though that number is seasonally-adjusted, and just plain missed the mark. The drop in durables was probably closer to 2.5-3%.

On the day, advancers beat back decliners, 3591-2773. New lows retained their advantage over new highs, 181-19. Volume was slim due to the 1:00 pm closure.

NYSE Volume 403,769,000
NASDAQ Volume 517,176,281

Oil slipped another $3.63, to $35.35. The metals improved, however. Gold was higher by $9.90, to $848.00. Silver added 9 cents, to $10.35.

That's a wrap. The Santa Claus rally seems to have fallen victim to deflation. Merry Christmas.

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