Friday, September 18, 2009

Tight Range, High Volume

Today was moving day.

Traders moved in and out of positions, realigning their portfolios into what they believe to be the best stocks over the near term, that time frame likely being through December and the holiday season. That is why sector rotation was so evident today, as investors shed shares in basic materials, conglomerates, transportation and energy (the 4 sectors which closed in the red) and into consumer cyclical and non-cyclical stocks. Those two sectors were the biggest movers, up 0.71% and 1.11%, respectively, and another reason why volume was high, but the range in which stocks traded was very tight.

The Dow moved a total of 63 points from top to bottom, which would normally be suggesting a sluggish market, but the overall picture was more dynamic, as volumes exceeded the prior two days.

Dow 9,820.20, +36.28 (0.37%)
Nasdaq 2,132.86, +6.11 (0.29%)
S&P 500 1,068.30, +2.81 (0.26%)
NYSE Composite 7,016.92, +14.75 (0.21%)

The lack of breadth also contributed to the smallish gains. Advancers beat decliners narrowly, 3561-2887. New highs finished ahead of new lows, but not nearly with as much room between them as on Wednesday, 360-44. Notably, the number of new lows was cut in half from most of this week's daily count, an encouraging sign.

Readers will note a major change in how NYSE volume is expressed. Instead of using simple closed volume, from this day forward, we will display consolidated volume, which includes extraneous trading platforms unrecognized by straight Big Board volume calculations.

NYSE Volume 6,744,731,000
Nasdaq Volume 3,107,309,750

There was no economic news released by any government agency, though the Bureau of Labor Statistics did report that unemployment has reached levels above the national average (9.7%) in 14 states. The hardest hit was Michigan, at 15.4%, while the best place to keep a job is in North Dakota, which reported unemployment at 4.3%. We're unsure what people actually do in North Dakota, but apparently, nearly everybody is doing it.

While the mid-section of the country is hardly suffering at all, the far West - California, Nevada and Oregon, specifically - has been hit the worst, with unemployment above 12% in each of those states. Nearly every Southern state has reached or exceeded 10%, along with Ohio and Illinois.

Those figures did not matter much to Wall Street, which is becoming more and more focused on 3rd quarter earnings reports, which will begin flowing to the market within 3 weeks. Expectations, once again, are quite high that companies will show top-line growth as opposed to profits squeezed from cost-cutting and job elimination.

That lies ahead. For now, the rally lives on.

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