Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gathering Momentum Prior to Payroll Data... April Fools?

First, an apology for yesterday's misinformation, in which I stated that the non-farm payroll data would appear within 24 hours of yesterday's post. I was mistaken, having jumbled Thursday and Friday. The government jobs data for March is due out Friday morning - tomorrow - at 8:30 am. Markets are closed, so the number can slip into the mainstream without much reaction, until Monday, that is.

Traders were tripping over each other today to buy stocks. Not that there was any particular rationale; stocks are overpriced right where they are. However, since it was the first trading day of a new quarter, there were probably a good number of funds with cash on hand, so, instead of just letting that money take up space, they put it to work. One can't really blame the traders, brokers and fund managers. They just don't know how to do anything else.

Dow 10,927.07, +70.44 (0.65%)
NASDAQ 2,402.58, +4.62 (0.19%)
S&P 500 1,178.10, +8.67 (0.74%)
NYSE Composite 7,539.02, +91.22 (1.22%)

Gainers beat back losers, 4348-2107. There were 593 new highs, and 73 new lows. Volume was better than average on the NASDAQ, but down in the dumps on the NYSE.

NYSE Volume 4,502,472,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,281,689,000

Oil gained $1.11, to a 17-month high, at $84.87 per barrel. Gold shot up $11.80, to $1,125.10, and silver was up 38 cents, at $17.88.

Most of the enthusiasm could be tied to this morning's initial unemployment claims figure, which came in at 439,000, which was a little better than the 450,000 expected, and slightly lower than last week's revised 445,000.

Call me skeptical, but the initial claims numbers sure seem more alarming than reassuring. If the investor class can get jazzed over beating expectations by 11,000, which works out to a 3% beat, then I suppose that the Dow could gain 1000 points if it were ever revealed that the US was actually creating jobs instead of losing them.

Unemployment remains stubbornly high at 9.7%, and these weekly unemployment claims should be falling into the neighborhood of 200-340,000 in a stable economy. From the looks of things, we're nowhere close to that.

Wall Street loves the numbers, though, as they seem to love every number, finding a silver lining in just about any data, no matter how horrific. It is rumored that many of those working on Wall Street also believe in the Easter Bunny. He looks a lot like Ben Bernanke.

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