Friday, November 20, 2009

Stronger US Dollar Drags Down Stocks

This is an unusually strong market, even if volume indications do not verify such.

After a week of US Dollar jawboning and actual intervention, driving it off its lows against most of the raw material currencies - Brazil, Canada, Australia - and especially against the Euro, the US Dollar seems to have stabilized, taking US stock markets in the opposite direction.

There seems to be a concerted effort to eliminate the "risk trade" associated with the weak dollar, more than likely initiated by the Fed and US Treasury, under some darker moniker, no doubt, in advance of actual tightening by the Fed come this Spring or Summer at the latest. The risks associated with a weaker dollar are too great for the Fed and the rest of the developed nations to tolerate for long, so an unwinding of the carry trade has to be in the works, or so it seems.

Despite this effort, stocks barely stumbled in the week-long effort. There have been a number of casualties, but everybody with any experience in the markets knows that the liquidity-driven trade must be eventually replaced by a return to the normalcy of trading on fundamentals. The trick is to get it to happen somewhat seamlessly, without a huge downdraft in the already-heated markets.

The action this week kept the lid on stocks while giving quiet notice that the Fed and Treasury is not going to allow the US dollar to fall much further, if any.

Dow 10,318.16, -14.28 (0.14%)
NASDAQ 2,146.04, -10.78 (0.50%)
S&P 500 1,091.38, -3.52 (0.32%)
NYSE Composite 7,084.47, -33.17 (0.47%)

Stocks finished lower for the third straight session. Advancing issues were overshadowed by decliners, 3719-2713. It was the slightest margin of losers to winners of the past three days. New highs remained ahead of new lows, 127-64, which should be the case, as last year's ranges should not be difficult to beat. Highs should exceed lows all the way through March of next year and likely well beyond.

Volume was moderate, or, as the case may be, normal.

NYSE Volume 4,301,791,000
NASDAQ Volume 1,934,215,250

Once again, oil was caught up in the dollar trade, losing 74 cents, to $76.72. Gold continued on its own special track, now completely untethered from the dollar, up another $6.60, to $1,148.50, another closing high. Silver failed to keep pace, losing a penny, to $18.45.

The week was rather uneventful, though Dell's missing of targets and poor guidance was a highlight for the latter part of the week. The company seems to be in a very tight spot, with competition apparently eating into market share and margins, especially by HP, Acer and Toshiba.

Even after the small drop this week - between 1.25 and 2% on the major exchanges - the US stock rally that began in March of this year still appears to have some life remaining. Though stocks broke below the key 1100 mark on the S&P, that level should no longer provide strong resistance, since it was exceeded last week. While the skeptics will be weighing whether or not the rally has run out of steam, there's a pretty good bet that money managers will be diving right back in again on Monday, with money that needs to go to work. Unless the interventionists on the Dollar front overstep their mandate, stocks should continue apace until the end of the year.

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