Monday, March 9, 2009

No News, Stocks Lose

In a very choppy trading session, the major indices fell further to the downside on Monday, as investors were largely left without guideposts. There were no meaningful economic reports nor corporate releases upon which to trade, so the overwhelming overhang of a continuing negative feedback loop sent investors bailing again.

Dow 6,547.05, -79.89 (1.21%)
NASDAQ 1,268.64, -25.21 (1.95%)
S&P 500 676.53, -6.85 (1.00%)
NYSE Composite 4,226.31, -58.18 (1.36%)

Stocks opened lower at the open, but quickly rebounded and traded in positive territory for a while, but by 11:00 am, the bears had taken control again. The only encouraging news was merger-related, though the combinations were deemed dilutive to two companies, one a Dow component: Merck (MRK) and Dow Chemical (DOW). In the pharma sector, Merck signed definitive agreements to purchase Schering-Plough for $41.1 billion in stock and cash. Dow Chemical, meanwhile, convened talks with buyout target Rohm & Haas to resolve thorny issues which have resulted in litigation. Merck lost 1.75, to close at 20.99, the largest percentage decliner on the Dow at a loss of 7.78%. Dow Chemical lost 0.79, to close at 6.32, an 11% loss.

Overall, the Dow finished with 14 stocks up and 16 down, but the severity of the losses was far greater than what amounted to skimpy gains.

In the general market, declining issues outnumbered advancers, 4613-1947, The number of stocks making new lows was again very high, at 1244. There were only 6 new highs. Volume was less than it was last week, reflecting some degree of disinterest or outright exhaustion.

NYSE Volume 1,556,423,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,053,304,000

Commodities were split once again, with oil rising $1.55, to $47.07 on word of more desperate OPEC supply cuts, despite heating oil and natural gas both finishing lower. Natural gas finished at a seasonal low of $3.87, a sign that milder weather through the latter part of February and into March has led to lower consumer demand.

Gold dropped $24.70, to $918.00; silver fell 39 cents, to $12.94.

There is continuing evidence of price destruction in the US and beyond, which will no doubt put pressure on many corporate profits this quarter. Looking out 6 weeks at the next earnings season, prospects continue to dim, and that was reflected in Monday's sluggish trade.

Stocks have now fallen in 14 of the last 18 sessions, resulting in a net loss of 1392 points on the Dow. The DJIA is now off 25% for the year.

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