Monday, November 16, 2009

All Major Indices At YTD Highs

Each of the major indices - the Dow Jones Industrials, Dow Jones Transports, S&P 500, NASDAQ and NYSE Composite closed today at highs for the year. For all of the indices, these are new 52-week highs as well, as the markets continue to recover from the financial meltdown of last fall.

Of particular interest to traders were the gains on the S&P and Dow Jones Transports - especially the latter, which confirmed new highs on the Industrials, to the delight of the Dow theorists. The S&P closed above the magical 1100 mark, which for many has been viewed as an impenetrable line of resistance. The S&P had failed in three prior attempts to close above that figure.

Stocks were once again buoyed by what's become known as the "risk trade", playing the weak dollar, which works in inverse relationship to stocks. The buck was bashed again; stocks flew. It's that simple.

There were a couple of hiccups which were worth noting. Around 12:00 noon, when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's remarks to the Economic Club of New York were released, stocks took a bit of a nosedive on the chairman's comment that the Fed had tools available to promote the US dollar, and again, right after 3:00 pm, when Meredith Whitney announced on CNBC hat she hasn't been "this bearish in a year," and viewed stocks as overvalued, with prices unrelated to fundamentals. Both times the markets dipped, then quickly recovered, but it may be notable that the indices did close off their highs for the day, with some serious tape-painting occurring at right before the final bell. In the case of the DJ Transports, the index finished the day at 1046.50, just a point above the previous high (October 20, 4055.11), hardly a ringing endorsement.

While nobody can deny anything the Fed chairman said, nor, for that matter, Whitney's views on the market, the trade is still based on a fundamentally flawed equation: that of a cheaper dollar making stocks worth more. The disconnect between a cheaper dollar and rising stocks is alarming because, while the lower dollar makes US exports more affordable overseas, it also has the relative effect of higher import prices which will no doubt negatively affect a working population that continues to see its standard of living in decline - again, one of the effects of the drooping dollar.

So, it's entirely possible that the Fed can be right, meredith Whitney can be right, but stocks will continue to go higher regardless, all due to the inverse US dollar - US equities trade.

With a number of key economic reports due out tomorrow before the opening bell, including PPI, TIC outflows and capacity utilization, trader's hope is that the numbers are overall negative toward the US economy, because that would once again slam the greenback and make stocks move higher. It's one of the most perverse trades ever seen, though after the financial implosion of 2008 and the Madoff rip-off, anything that works is simply tolerated and played until it no longer works.

Dow 10,406.96, +136.49 (1.33%)
NASDAQ 2,197.85, +29.97 (1.38%)
S&P 500 1,109.30, +15.82 (1.45%)
NYSE Composite 7,237.10, +117.21 (1.65%

Advancing issues, as expected, far outdistanced decliners, 5156-1410. New highs pounded new lows, 688-96. Volume, however, was again on the anemic side.

NYSE Volume 5,300,401,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,050,422,375

Commodities also took advantage of the weaker greenback. Oil gained $2.55, to $78.90. Gold shot to new records, up $22.70, to $1,139.40, and silver finally took off, adding $1.03, to $18.41, a record close for 2009.

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