Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Factory Orders Up; Pending Hone Sales Down

The headline explains quite a bit. The manufacturing sector continues to churn, though at unimpressive levels, and the housing market continues to slump. Factory orders were up 1.1% in November, after posting a gain of 0.8% in October. Pending hone sales were down 16% in November, as compared to October. While that may be seen as the result of the expiring of the new buyer tax credit, that excuse has begun to wear thin. Foreclosures are still at or near record highs, and, with unemployment hovering around 10%, aren't expected to drop off any time soon.

The housing market in the United states is still a shambles and any efforts to revive it, other than plain, ordinary waiting it out, are likely to fail. There are more than enough residential properties on the market for the scarce number of available buyers. Simple supply and demand math are all one needs to know about real estate from now until 2012. If you're thinking of buying, offer less, or buy something reasonable, to live in, not as an investment.

Stocks zig-zagged all day with the Dow remaining underwater for the entire session. The range was very narrow as investors showed a bit of caution after yesterday's blow-off, start-of-the-year rally. Stocks don't appear to be cheap anymore, and some of them don't look like solid investments, either. Cash remains king and when put to its proper use, can produce solid assets. In the current low-inflation (some dare call it deflation) environment, actual money is a rather useful, fluid thing, and Americans are finding out that there are bargains both to be had and sold. It's a good time to be frugal, or so it seems, and that would imply that it's not a good time to be in stocks, which are, by their nature, speculative.

Dow 10,572.02, -11.94 (0.11%)
Nasdaq 2,308.71. +0.29 (0.01%)
S&P 500 1,136.52. +3.53 (0.31%)
NYSE Composite 7,354.87, +28.13 (0.38%)

Interestingly enough, today's market moves were broad-based and on solid volume. Advancers outnumbered decliners, 3575-2976, wit the bulk of the gains on the NYSE. New highs appear to be peaking, at 754 today, as compared to 76 new lows.

NYSE Volume 5,687,644,500
Nasdaq Volume 2,395,510,250

Commodities were almost universally higher, with the notable exception of natural gas (somebody must have taken my post from yesterday to heart), down 25 cents. Oil priced at a 15-month high for the second straight day, reaching $81.77 on a gain of 26 cents. Gold continued to rebound, though up just 20 cents, to $1,118.50. Silver was the big winner on the day, gaining 34 cents to reach $17.80.

Stock remain in a very measured upward range, and while many commentators are expecting the rally to run out of steam (self included), it hasn't happened yet. The next likely move should occur during the hullabaloo over earnings, which will commence earnestly next week. Those not wishing to wait for Alcoa (AA) to officially kick off earnings season on Monday might get a clue from Monsanto (MON), which reports tomorrow.

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