Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stocks Sucking Wind; Oil Futures Out of Control

The persistent pattern of sideways trade held sway one more day on Wall Street, despite the ADP private employment report offering a glimpse of Friday's government non-farm payroll data. The ADP report showed employers shedding 20,000 jobs in February, which was better than most analysts were seeking. Still, those numbers - and a rise in ISM service index from 50.5 to 53.0 from January to February - hardly moved the needle.

Naturally, there were a good share of both winners and losers, but the overall markets are about as stagnant as a Louisiana swamp. The problem is that these stocks represent real money, currently not working very hard for anybody.

Dow 10,396.76, -9.22 (0.09%)
NASDAQ 2,280.68, -0.11 (0.00%)
S&P 500 1,118.79, +0.48 (0.04%)
NYSE Composite 7,164.66, +28.69 (0.40%)

Advancing issues beat back decliners once again, 3575-2890, though the margin was not nearly as large as in recent days. New highs led new lows, 555-45. Volume was led by the NASDAQ. The NYSE continues to exhibit signs of flagging interest with low volume a daily occurrence.

NYSE Volume 4,475,734,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,474,973,500

Meanwhile, commodities, especially those in the energy sector, were spinning out of control. Oil shot up another $1.27, to $80.95, with April wholesale gas futures at multi-month highs of $2.25/gallon. Gold gained $6.60, to $1,144.00. Silver was up 25 cents, to $17.31.

The outlook for the February non-farm payroll data due out Friday morning continues to be clouded by forecasts that snow storms during the month may have skewed the data significantly. Also in play is the hiring of workers for the 2010 census. That was supposed to boost employment significantly over 2nd and 3rd quarters of the year, though the effect probably won't be felt until the march data is released a month from now.

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