Friday, July 17, 2009

Split Friday, Positive Week for Stocks

Earnings results were just good enough - from Bank of America and Citigroup's weakness, to IBM and Google's strength - to push stocks modestly into positive territory for the day on two exchanges and marginally in the red on two others. The general ambivalence displayed by the day's trading is indicative of another topping out, or, at least a weekend resting point, as the Dow has rung up gains for 5 straight sessions, the NASDAQ, 6. It's a winning streak worthy of note and one that put an end to 4 consecutive losing weeks.

Over the past five sessions the Dow has tacked on an impressive 597 points, the NASDAQ perked up 130; the S&P gained 61 and the NYSE Composite added 411. For all the talk about there being no recovery in sight, the first wave of corporate earnings provided enough positive vibe to send the markets off on a nice upward run.

The question still remains as to whether the gains are sustainable, though given the early returns, the companies being traded seem to have adjusted to a new set of economic circumstances. While earnings are still down from what they were a year ago, so are stock prices. Investors are weighing the current results against an uncertain future, but remain positive, though skeptical. At least there seems to be little worry about a complete melt-down a la last fall.

Dow 8,743.94, +32.12 (0.37%)
NASDAQ 1,886.61, +1.58 (0.08%)
S&P 500 940.38, -0.36 (0.04%)
NYSE Composite 6,038.11, -4.94 (0.08%)

On the day, declining issues narrowly beat advancers, 3376-2936, but new highs bested new lows, 103-71. Volume remained down, though not down to levels of previous sessions, but close. The low level of trading velocity continues to be a topic overlooked by the mainstream financial press. Sluggish trading is a clear sign that investors ate still skittish and widely risk-averse. The vast majority of trades are of the short-term variety, more akin to gambling than traditional investing.

NYSE Volume 1,290,375,000
NASDAQ Volume 1,890,890,000

Commodity traders were also encouraged, sending crude futures higher again, up $1.48, to $63.50. Gold brought an additional $2.10 per ounce, at $937.50. Silver tacked on 17 cents, to close at $13.40.

The coming two weeks will be chock full of earnings hits and misses, though the general indications are that most companies have avoided all-out bust scenarios and may be looking to avoid returning to near-term bottoms from March. The US and world economies have stumbled badly, but they're still functioning, albeit at a decreased capacity.

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