Thursday, October 15, 2009

Late Day Action Boosts Stocks; Google Soars; IBM Sours

As is often the case during earnings season, much of the real action happened after the closing bell. That was when tech bellwethers Google (GOOG) and IBM (IBM) announced third quarter earnings results. But first, a recap of the day's trading, which was, by most accounts, choppy and surprising at the end.

Stocks spent most of the day in a narrow range just below the break even line. Around 2:30 pm, the major indices managed to pop into the green and stayed there into the close, marking new 2009 highs for the major indices. These moves were in spite of the chorus of boos surrounding Goldman Sach's 3rd quarter earnings announcement before the bell, which was better than expectations, but not good enough to keep the stock from sliding throughout the session. Most of the interest was focused not on Goldman's stellar 3rd quarter, but on the bonuses being paid to executives.

The company practically owns the deal-making space, now that Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros. have departed, and they made boatloads of money - $3.19 billion, beating the estimates handily - but because of a Meredith Whitney downgrade on Tuesday (based on valuation - Goldman shares have nearly quadrupled since last November) and general dislike for the firm many believe runs the government, the banking business and most of the known universe. Like them or hate them, making 300% on your money in a year isn't hard to take. Sure, they pay their executives handsomely, but they bring in huge money for their shareholders, so the only people griping are those not smart enough to have gotten on the bandwagon.

The stock lost a whole 3 points and change on the day. I'm sure owners of the stock are really crying in their champagne.

Also before the bell was the usual horrid unemployment claims number. Another 514,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits this week. These numbers cannot be taken seriously. First, unemployment benefits are so easy to come by these days that the people claiming them probably shouldn't even be counted as seriously unemployed. All you have to do is a poor job and somebody will certainly furlough you. Additionally, according to the figures, which have been over 500,000 for more than a year, there have been at least 25 million people collecting benefits in the past 12 months. That's an enormous figure, even in bad times. What matters more is how long these people stay out of work, not how many are stepping up to the collection plate.

The number of people still collecting benefits fell below 6 million, and that number has been trending lower for months, a positive sign for the economy.

Citigroup also reported before the bell and the results were mixed. The company which received the most assistance from the feds, and is partially owned by you ,me, and our neighbors across America, hasn't done a very good job of managing our money, which came as no surprise and had little influence on the general market.

Dow 10,062.94, +47.08 (0.47%)
NASDAQ 2,173.29, +1.06 (0.05%)
S&P 500 1,096.56, +4.54 (0.42%)
NYSE Composite 7,204.05. +21.67 (0.30%)

Declining issues finished slightly ahead of advancers, 3338-3081. There were 727 new highs to just 73 new lows. Volume was in the range it's been since Tuesday. There is still a ton of money on the sidelines, missing out on the rally. This stagnant money will be great for savvy traders, because when it finally does come in, it will send a strong selling signal at a supposed market top. Smart guys and gals will be able to maximize profits upon exiting. Look for an unusually high volume number to send the signal that it's time to unload.

NYSE Volume 6,184,697,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,199,385,750

Commodities were led by oil, which gained $2.40, to $77.58. The price of oil, and its derivative, gas, is approaching a level at which it can damage the economic recovery. more money being spent on fuel means less to spend on all the other things Americans enjoy. Though there's unanimity in the chorus of oil traders that the price will go higher, I'd still not engage in that trade as it can only go so far before crimping its own demand. Many would agree that it's already too high, but, since all hatred is currently focused on bankers, the oil moguls are getting a free ride. Buy some Chevron or ExxonMobil stock if you don't like the higher prices for gas. The gains will even out, and if prices do fall, your stock will only be worth a little less. It's a zero sum trade if you play it properly.

The precious metals were hit by profit taking. Gold sold off to $1,050.60, a key inflection point, down by $14.10. Silver dipped 49 cents, to $17.42.

As for Google, the company posted its largest profit and revenue ever. That about covers the state of the internet. Technology companies are extremely healthy, with squeaky clean balance sheets. Like Google, most of the larger ones have no, or very small amounts of, debt.

IBM also beat forecasts, but revenue slipped. Big Blue is still recovering from the last year in which many of its major clients suffered or went out of business. They're doing just fine, however, having hit new 52-week highs in just the past week.

Google also posted a string of new 52-week highs in recent days. The search giant is branching out into other areas, a sign that they feel supremely confident about the economy going forward.

You should too.

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