Wednesday, December 30, 2009

For a Wednesday, It Sure Felt Like a Friday

The financial markets have slowed to a complete crawl as the week winds toward the end of the year, the decade, oblivion. The end of oblivion may be where the market is headed, but one would be hard-pressed to find that place.

Wednesday on Wall Street was more like a Friday. The place was empty, which brings up an interesting thought: what if you wanted to sell your stocks and there were no buyers? It could happen, especially if the US economy does the double-dip so many believe it will. In that case, you'll be stuck with your stock certificates, or, barring that, the memory of same.

Stocks are just pieces of paper, we should constantly remind ourselves, and worse than that, in today's economy, they are nothing more than protons and electrons traveling around an electrically-charged financial universe. They, as strictly a function of perception and perceived risk, may be worth what the next person is willing to pay. If that amount is less than what you paid, you lose. If more, you win. If nobody cares, you lose. In two out of three of those circumstances you lose and in one (a 33% chance), you lose everything you invested.

Is that any way to construct a plan for financial stability or prosperity? Probably not, though we, as humans, are prone to accepting and believing in whatever horsecrap suits our mind-set best, and for the majority, it's stocks. No, not gold, or even silver, or trinkets, dishwashers, sofas or houses, but little pieces of paper or whirring sub-atomic material which shows up in our online accounts as a series of numbers with symbols, periods and commas attached.

That is which that we have placed our faith. Good luck to us all.

Dow 10,548.51, +3.10 (0.03%)
NASDAQ 2,291.28, +2.88 (0.13%)
S&P 500 1,126.42, +0.23 (0.02%)
NYSE Composite 7,241.24, -10.95 (0.15%)

For the third straight session, declining issues held sway over advancing ones, 3376-3089. New highs, there were 257. There were 46 new lows. Volume was so light that many considered just leaving at lunch time, and many did. The whole she-bang seems to be grinding to a halt with one more day remaining to trade in 2009.

NYSE Volume 2,685,528,000
NASDAQ Volume 1,314,963,375

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, which came in at 60.0, topped expectations, hitting its best level since 2006.

Commodity markets were equally dull. Oil gained 13 cents, to $79.00. Gold lost $6.10, to end at $1,092.00. Silver fell 33 cents, to $16.79. Two weeks ago, silver was over $18.00. Now, this? Something is definitely wrong with precious metals and that could bode ill for everyone.

Last day of the year is tomorrow. Let's hope we all wake up on the other side.

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