Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why Stocks Won't Move

The US equity markets are so solidly stalled, constipated and intractable for one simple reason. They have yet to retest the November 20 lows. Until that task is accomplished, there will be no meaningful rally in stocks, as there is no chart confirmation and thus, no commitment.

This is not to say that the Dow cannot escape the clutches of 7500 and change, though the current battle line clearly has been set at the most reasonable level of 8149. Stocks could easily advance another couple hundred points without anyone questioning whether or not they're overbought.

Stocks look cheap if you're an optimist. They appear somewhat more ghastly if you are not so easily persuaded. Realists are somewhere in the middle and probably, because they generally prove to think with their heads, invested in gold. (For those of you who cannot afford much gold, there is always silver, just as good, and historically cheap by comparison.)

For purposes of clarification, the Dow closed above our magic number today, though the entire day's range was covered by yesterday's, so the import of Tuesday's tidy gain was minimal in the larger scheme.

Dow 8,174.73 Up 58.70 (0.72%)
NASDAQ 1,504.90 Up 15.44 (1.04%)
S&P 500 845.71 Up 9.14 (1.09%)
NYSE Compos 5,315.44 Up 70.83 (1.35%)

The usual spate of bad news helped keep investors in place on Tuesday, though there is still evidence that not everyone has been convinced that stocks are not where one should be putting his or her money.

More than 10,000 additional layoffs were announced on Tuesday, from companies as broad-based as Best Buy, Corning, IBM, Target, Baker Hughes and Avery Dennison. More than 70,000 corporate layoffs were announced on Monday.

NYSE Volume 1,171,004,000
NASDAQ Volume 1,819,427,000

The Conference Board also reported, earlier in the day, that their measure of consumer confidence had fallen to an all-time low of 37.7. The Case Shiller Home Price Index found that home prices had fallen by 18.18% in November from a year ago, the largest such decline in the history of the survey.

Advancing issues galloped ahead of decliners, 4253-2266. There were more new lows than new highs, 172-16. Volume was once again pathetic and indicative of a market with no conviction whatsoever.

And who can blame them? Layoffs continue to be announced daily, corporate profits, though many are beating expectations, are generally lower than for the same period last year. Many companies are showing significant strains and signs that business has slowed in an unprecedented manner.

Oil was also a victim of the deflationary environment, losing $4.15, to $41.58. Gold dipped $9.30, to $901.40. Silver bucked the trend, gaining 12 cents, to $12.18. Natural gas continued to wallow near lows, losing a penny to $4.44.

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