Monday, February 22, 2010

Stocks in Hold 'em Mode

There haven't been many slower trading days than today in the past 2-3 years, and stocks suffered from a near-total lack of interest on the session.

Maybe it's just a sign of the times, but everybody seems to be waiting for some reliable data points upon which to trade. Either that, or the markets are just stuck with a bad case of cabin fever, with traders itching to stretch out and move, though the weather isn't going to permit it any time soon.

As for reliable data points, there were two news releases, though neither could be considered reliable or tradable.

The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) predicted that the economy would grow by just over 3% in 2010 and 2011. They further detail that job growth would soon return for US business, offering predictions of average job growth of 50,000 per month in the 1st quarter of 2010 and 103,000 per month for the remainder of the year.

Those figures nearly match the ones released by the Obama administration just a week or two ago.

On Friday, the FDIC announced that four more banks had failed, bringing the total number of bank failures this year to 20. There were 140 bank closures in 2009, and the prediction is for 200 to go under in 2010.

Taken together, there's a real concern that the economic crisis that nearly crumbled the financial system in 2008 is still not fully functioning, though it is working well enough for business economists to make semi-rosy predictions. Predictions, like opinions, however, are not unique and the numbers tossed out by the NABE might be nothing more than educated guesses rather than appropriate measures of risk in the system and the realities of the day.

Dull markets are usually not playable, but, unless there's some movement to the upside, the bears may be emboldened by what appears to be widespread weakness across a wide swath of industries. The political standstill in Washington certainly isn't helping bulls any, either.

Dow 10,383.38, -18.97 (0.18%)
NASDAQ 2,242.03. -1.84 (0.08%)
S&P 500 1,108.01, -1.16 (0.10%)
NYSE Composite 7,078.53, -4.72 (0.07%)

Advancing issues beat decliners by a small margin, 3326-3179. There were 366 new highs and 31 new lows. Volume, as previously stated, was anemic.

NYSE Volume 4,244,704,000
NASDAQ Volume 1,818,306,000

Commodities were mixed, with oil up 39 cents, to $80.16, gold down $9.00, at $1,113.10, and silver off 18 cents, to $16.26. This persistent low-volume pattern might be a regular feature of trading until there's sufficient evidence to elicit moves one way or the other. Considering the prevailing economic and political landscape, there could be little movement in either direction for some time.

No comments: