Friday, March 6, 2009

Late Rally Saves Dow, S&P; NASDAQ Lower

Bed news for investors continued today, as the BLS released the Non-farms labor report for February, showing the nation lost another 651,000 jobs over the period. The Bureau also revised December and January figures even lower and boosted the official jobless rate to 8.1%, a further blow to confidence.

After gaining initially, the major indices soon feel into the red again, and stayed down most of the session, which was one of the more lackluster of recent vintage. At the end of the day, stocks rallied on a combination of short-covering, staking out of positions and a general oversold condition. It was not enough, however, to prevent the indices from falling for the 8th week out of nine so far in 2009.

Dow 6,626.94, +32.50 (0.49%)
NASDAQ 1,293.85, -5.74 (0.44%)
S&P 500 683.38, +0.83 (0.12%)
NYSE Composite 4,284.49, +16.89 (0.40%)

The Dow ended the session with 16 components up and 14 down, in line with the moderately higher closing figures.

Declining issues outweighed advancers, 3786-2782, so the buying which produced the gains was quite selective. New lows tallied 1684, to a mere 8 new highs. The disparity in the lows-highs this week has been the widest since the collapse back in the September-November wipeout of 2008. Volume was the among the highest of the week, indicating that there are still those who believe the worst is not over, and, alternately, a large share of bargain hunting.

NYSE Volume 1,771,049,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,489,014,000

Commodities were generally up, with oil gaining $1.91, to $45.52. Gold gained $14.90, recovering some of the ground lost over the past week's profit taking, to $942.70. Silver remained strong, adding 21 cents, to $13.33.

The late-day rally in stocks sets up an intriguing scenario for next week. In the absence of earnings reports from companies, the market will continue to focus on economic numbers and outside events.

Surely, employment will still be in focus. Any large-scale layoffs might spook already exhausted sellers, though if the news is more benign (and just about everyone believes the bad news has to take a break at some point), it could spark a fairly sharp rally. The global economy hasn't completely fallen off the cliff, so there are pockets of hope and some very attractive prices in stocks.

If anything, the market is more than overdue for a multi-week bounce to the upside. Of course, by April, the banks may be reporting the results of their government-sponsored "stress tests" and that should put the kibosh on any gains.

Sentiment remains stoic and bearish, but traders being the aggressive beasts they are, 1000 points to the upside in short order is not out of the question at this juncture.

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