Friday, March 26, 2010

Equities Break Down, Break Even

For the second straight day, a nascent rally in stocks was shut off by outside events, today's supposed culprit a South Korean military vessel apparently sunk by an enemy torpedo.

Who could be so brash, unkind, unthinking? Ah, yes, Kim Jung Il, that man everybody loves to hate, and the perfect scapegoat for any kind of unpleasantness. Last week I couldn't locate my car keys and, certain that the evil North Korean ruler was behind their disappearance, I rattled off a series of insulting emails demanding their return.

And it worked! The keys mysteriously showed up on the kitchen counter within minutes.

So, one can understand with all seriousness how the actions of a crazy, totalitarian slave-master would have such an immediate affect on all the stocks listed on the American exchanges. Surely, if North Korea wants to be provocative and warlike, then it can't be good for Proctor Gamble, Apple or any of the other 6000-odd equities trading on the NYSE or NASDAQ.

It just goes to show how ludicrous and deceptive the financial media has become. Once somebody comes up with an idea, it's run with, whether it makes sense or not, whether it has anything more to do with the value of stocks in play than the weather, or Tiger Wood's 9-hole score, or your kid's grade on a math test.

With analysis such as comes from CNBC or any of a hundred or more boutique financial PR firms or thousands of press releases, no wonder trading stocks is so complicated and so often seemingly without rhyme nor reason. That's why having a nice, healthy horde of cash, diamonds, gold and other nifty stuff you can sell is always a good idea. If the world gets even crazier than it already is, you might have something that somebody wants, and they'll pay you for the pleasure of holding onto it. Seems almost barbaric, doesn't it?

Dow 10,850.36, +9.15 (0.08%)
NASDAQ 2,395.13, -2.28 (0.10%)
S&P 500 1,166.59, -0.86 (0.07%)
NYSE Composite 7,403.53, -17.93 (0.24%)

Regardless of what happened off the shores of the Korean peninsula, winners and losers were nearly evenly divided, the final score being, gainers: 3288; decliners: 3194. There was a dearth of new highs, just 296 of them, as today marked the one-year anniversary of a rather substantial move in the markets, a 175-point gain on the Dow (to 7925), making comparisons to a year ago somewhat less pronounced. Volume reverted back to the norm, sluggish.

NYSE Volume 5,382,776,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,172,191,000

Commodity prices continued the divergence which began yesterday, with oil down 53 cents, to an even $80 per barrel, but gold up $11.50, to $1,104.20, and silver tagging along, higher by 17 cents, to $16.89.

The government officially pegged 1st quarter GDP at 5.6%, The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index improved to 73.6, from a downwardly-revised 72.5 in February.

Nothing really mattered. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times...

Enjoy the first weekend of Spring. If you're in the North, you should have seeds already germinating; if you're in the South, sprouts; and if you're in California, apparently you're growing stuff not to eat, but to smoke. Shameful.

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