Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Follow Through or Not, Upside Looks Better for Now

Stocks crossed back and forth across the break even line en route to a marginally higher finish, which is good news for those bullish on stocks. The fear was that after Tuesday's outsize gains, profit taking and a resumption of negative attitudes would sink the markets and send investors back into their six-month-long funk.

But, despite a strong sell-off at the close, all indices remained in positive territory, with the NASDAQ, loaded with tech stocks, faring the best of all. A couple of key levels were tested and both were beaten back by vigorous selling: 7000 on the Dow, and 730 on the S&P. The former is more psychological than anything else, the latter considered a key support/resistance area. In both instances, the earlier attempt, right around 10:00 am, was stronger than the final surge in the last hour of trading. It will take more than just positive vibes to exceed these levels. Maybe Ken Lewis can offer encouragement in Bank of America to get the lift needed.

Dow 6,930.40, +3.91 (0.06%)
NASDAQ 1,371.64, +13.36 (0.98%)
S&P 500 721.36, +1.76 (0.24%)
NYSE Composite 4,505.38, +6.00 (0.13%)

Market internals were a bit more positive than the smallish headline numbers would indicate. Advancers were solidly ahead of declining issues, 3876-2886. New lows maintained their advantage over new highs, but the number is shrinking fast. There were 245 new lows to just 9 new highs, but it is conceivable that these numbers could converge and even reverse within the next 5-7 sessions as options expiration approaches on March 20, a triple witching day.

With a two day winning streak under its belt, markets may be a bit bolder as investors snap up bargains and traders view profitable short-term opportunities. In the options markets, there are quite a load of heavy bets on selected stocks and index options far ahead of where stocks now sit. A gambling man - which anyone with any skin in this market no doubt is - would be leaning for more upside at this juncture, with the caveat that all bets are off if the Dow hits 7500-7800 or past March 20, whichever comes first.

Volume was strong once again, keeping with the current tone. There are plenty of trades being made, and unless there's a serious falloff in the next few sessions, another vigorous rally could ensue as shorts would be forced to cover quickly, forcing shares even higher. The market is clearly in the hands of day-traders and short-timers, who will trade relentlessly in search of minor gains. This market is for singles hitters instead of home run bashers, but the cumulative effect could produce a fairly solid bounce. Even some downward motion would be good for traders who have triggers set at lower levels. The area around 6830-6850 on the Dow has emerged as a fairly strong support level which, as yet, remains untouched.

NYSE Volume 1,745,479,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,228,163,000

Commodities were mixed again. Crude oil for April delivery fell $3.38, to $42.33. Gold rebounded off recent selling, picking up $14.80, to finish at $910.70. Silver remained in our target buying range, up 26 cents, to $12.80. The majority of the consumables, including foodstuffs and energy, were lower, reflecting the continuum of demand destruction, which continues on a strong scale. Deflation has become locked into the global economy, and, separate from the banking and housing crises, is contributing to severe price pressure in just about every business activity in the good-producing sectors. This pressure will help keep unemployment high, as companies are loathe to hire when business is slow and prices are down.

A couple of anecdotes which may or may not be of much importance. First, the tent city growing on the outskirts of Sacramento, California is a national disgrace, considering how much money has been thrown at banks as well as at social welfare programs such as food stamps and unemployment insurance. Just about everybody is being propped up except for these people - primarily lower-middle class workers - who have fallen through the cracks. Some of the Billion$ in the TARP program should be made available to help these people.

Second, listening to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner speak - without saying anything - is becoming an exercise in frustration. Geithner was the only guest on PBS's Charlie Rose last night. The hour-long interview was pure tedium. Geithner, not as adept as "the Maestro," Alan Greenspan, at complete obfuscation and dithering, clearly has taken some lessons. Listen yourself, the next time he speaks and see whether or not his words actually have substance. The chances are about 99-1 that they will not, and therein lies one of the largest problems facing the world economy today. We are being led by a fellow is too smart for his own good. Eventually, he'll actually be pinned down on an issue and that's when the mask comes off. He doesn't really have any fresh ideas or plans for fixing the banks or the economy. He is reading from a script in his mind which was memorized weeks ago and he's yet to help the condition which with we are faced.

Investors are more sophisticated than the average man or woman on the street and they are not amused by either Geithner, the President or the congress. They will trade this bounce for a while longer, but until there are actual facts to support a real rally, this is nothing but a short term bump in the road. The government is pushing on a string with the economy and the American public (outside the obvious government sector) is not going to take it much longer.

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