Friday, March 12, 2010

Sellers Creeping into Market

Call it what you will, but today's action was indicative - as all of the past week has been - of uncertainty about further stock market advances and profit-taking.

Stocks have stalled on low volume, though with the steady supply of cheap money being fed into the system, the small, fractional gains could continue, though sharper players probably have already exited profitable positions.

Dow 10,624.69, +12.85 (0.12%)
NASDAQ 2,367.66, -0.80 (0.03%)
S&P 500 1,149.99, -0.25 (0.02%)
NYSE Composite 7,362.85, +9.61 (0.13%)

Internal indicators are still positive, however, with advancing issues eking out a win over decliners, 3378-3127. That was the closest margin in days, if not weeks. New highs came in explosively, at 805, but the number of new lows also climbed, to 69 on the day. Volume continues to be stuck in neutral; very low participation is indicated.

NYSE Volume 5,506,876,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,035,983,000

Commodities were flat, with oil dipping 6 cents, to $81.24. Gold lost $1.20, to $1,107.00, and silver fell 17 cents, to $17.03. An interesting indicator is the gold-silver ratio, which has been out of whack since 2003, but on pull-backs, silver, with more industrial uses than gold, usually gets hit harder. It's an interesting dynamic. Silver will follow gold to the upside, but generally underperform it. On the downside, it may be instructive as a predictor of future gold moves. Since silver is more closely tied to the real economy, it goes to reason that it would feel the pinch prior to its cousin gold, which is almost entirely an investment instrument.

A couple of data points should have moved the market, and might have been partially responsible for the poor showing on Friday. Retail sales were strong in February, up 0.3%, but january was revised sharply lower, from +0.5 to +0.1. That revision may have put a scare into investors, sensing that the current numbers were likely overstated. If so, that would jibe with the Michigan Sentiment survey, which fell to 72.5 from 73.6 in February.

Additionally, inventories were flat when the expectation was for a noticeable build. It didn't occur, thus, skepticism prevailed, and the market doesn't appreciate any kind of uncertainty, of which there is more than enough to go around.

At least the weather is improving and can't be blamed for anything.

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