Friday, May 21, 2010

Pausing to Catch a Breath; Markets Bounce to End Dismal Week

Like the punch line to the old joke, "What are 500 lawyers lying dead at the bottom of the ocean?", gaining 125 points the day after the Dow Jones Industrials had just lost nearly 400, is... well, a good start.

However, the internals don't quite match the enthusiasm some may hold for the headline numbers, and, when the indices tumbled out of bed this morning into a ditch, they set new intra-day lows. Further, the whole thrust of today's gallop higher seemed a little out of place and probably had more to do with options expiration and covering short positions than anyone wants to admit.

It was a nice end to a really bad week for equity investors. All of the major averages ended up well below where they began the year, hugging their respective 200-day moving averages, or, in the case of the S&P 500, nestled comfortably below it. Obviously, whatever market worries caused the collapse of the past four weeks, those conditions are still present, and possibly getting worse.

For instance, Europe's $1 Trillion bailout is being called TARP a la EU, likened to the US version unveiled at their height of our own crisis back in the Fall of 2008, and many are saying it isn't enough. The US economy, hailed as the best of a bad bunch, isn't doing very well with real estate markets stuck in a funk and unemployment remaining stubbornly high; China is purposely slowing their own growth (they may not have to; slack global demand may do them in), fearing inflation; oil continues to spew from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, fouling the Southern coastline and threatening to destroy one of the great ecosystems of the fragile planet; state governments are just beginning to come to grips with austerity measures to combat their own fiscal deficits.

Is there anything good? Well, the price of gas is coming down gradually, but other than that, no, there's nothing good about a financial system teetering on the brink of implosion, the governments of nations nearing collapse, ecological disasters, politicians more focused on being re-elected than actually fixing things and the most corrupt insider game of high finance being played out on Wall Street.

Maybe the entire system needs to be flushed. Maybe an upheaval of the old guard might just lead to better days ahead. Maybe it's time for the rich and greedy to come to understand that impoverishing the entire planet isn't going to necessarily result in their own enrichment.

Today's little bump higher is, as usual, suspect, in that the rally came off an early, deep decline. Within minutes of the opening bell, the Dow was down 145 points, the other indices in a similar fix. The turnabout had all the earmarks of our old friends at the PPT, rushing to the rescue of financial markets which had apparently taken all they could handle. No matter the cause or underhandedness surrounding the Friday push to higher ground, stocks tumbled back into negative territory in the final hour. Technically, the indices made all of the day's gains in the last twenty minutes of trading, so, no, we're not buying it, nor should anybody.

Dow 10,193.39, +125.38 (1.25%)
NASDAQ 2,229.04, +25.03 (1.14%)
S&P 500 1,087.69, +16.10 (1.50%)
NYSE Composite 6,775.45, +122.45 (1.84%)

While advancing issues beat up decliners pretty handily, 4622-1938, new lows overwhelmed new highs for the third consecutive trading session, 295-87, and once that indicator flips in one direction or another, it's usually in it for a long haul, which can last anywhere from 4 to 20 months. Volume was abnormally high, owing to the idea that many shares were being parceled out of options and many short positions covered. Beisdes, it may have taken the insiders boosting stocks a bit more heft than they originally planned. Selling pressure didn't subside. It was just temporarily replaced by coordinated buying.

NYSE Volume 9,276,994,000.00
NASDAQ Volume 3,366,007,500.00

The first day of trading in the July futures contract for crude oil resulted in some price spillage, down 76 cents to the adjusted level of $70.04. Gold continued to retreat, losing $13.10, to $1,175.70, as did silver, down a relatively benign 6 cents, to $17.63.

The final week of May and all of June will be interesting to observe (meaning: do not trade this market) as investors will continue to focus on the issues in Europe, financial regulation and some potential pre-warnings from companies whose fates have turned from rosy to thorny. But, call me a tree-hugger or whatever you like, I have a feeling that the oil spill in the Gulf will dominate the news in a very ugly manner.

No comments: