Thursday, June 17, 2010

Late Rally Lifts Stocks; Volume Pathetic

There were any number of good reasons for stocks to take a breather on Thursday, but, a vicious late-day rally sent all of the indices into positive territory, a place none of them had been since the opening minutes of trading. The Dow itself gained 84 points in the final 35 minutes, after having been down all day. The major indices closed right at their highs of the day.

While the markets have been buoyant of late, pressures continue to build as measures of the strength of the US economy increasingly show that any recovery is going to a slow, bumpy and uneven process. More and more economists are lowering forecasts for the remainder of 2010 and trimming projections for 2011 in the face of increased taxation and regulation on a wide swath of industries.

New unemployment claims totaled 472,000, well above consensus estimates of 450,000 and an increase of 12,000 from the prior week, confirming that labor markets remain soft.

Another deflationary signal was flashed by the May Consumer Price Index (CPI), which declined 0.2% month-over-month while core prices improved 0.1% month-over-month.

There's also a very basic measurement known as valuation, something most stocks are now testing the upper ranges of. With earnings season still three to four weeks in the distance, the Wall Street insider swindlers are making as much of a quick buck before reports begin to flow from the board rooms to the street.

One can be relatively assured that stocks will begin another leg to the downside no later than Tuesday of next week, barring any unforeseen, spectacularly-positive events.

Stock investing is quickly becoming more a process of timing and luck than fundamental analysis. Traders are in and out of stocks with blinding speed as compared to the old buy-and-hold days, which now seem just a quaint memory of a time when financial markets were heavily regulated, and wealth accumulation was a slow and relatively safe process.

Today's traders face more challenges than at any time in memory. Between insider knowledge, pre-and-post-market maneuvers and the advent of push-button trading via computer or cell phone, investors have to be quick on their feet and use tight stops just to stay even.

Thinking along these lines, it may be time for pension fund managers to reassess their strategies and convert more assets out of stocks - at least US and European ones - and into more stable investments as these traders are unable to move the huge blocks they hold with any kind of price assurances.

Dow 10,434.17, +24.71 (0.24%)
NASDAQ 2,307.16, +1.23 (0.05%)
S&P 500 1,116.03, +1.42 (0.13%)
NYSE Composite 6,982.02, +5.94 (0.09%)

Advancing issues narrowly beat back decliners, 3220-3183; new highs continued their recent string of wins over new lows, 141-60, but volume on the day was absolutely pathetic - the lowest in well over a month's time - especially considering that Friday is an options expiration quadruple-witching day. Normally, volume is very high leading into these events, so something is not right about this entire set-up.

NYSE Volume 4,973,262,000.00
NASDAQ Volume 1,654,591,250.00

Oil slipped 88 cents, to $76.79, but the precious metals showed strength, which only amplifies the discordance in equities. Gold gained $18.20, to $1,247.50. Silver added 34 cents, to $18.77.

Gold and stocks have generally been trading in opposite directions, though in recent months, that relationship has faded. Eventually, the two will collide, though, with the value of the Dow equal to anywhere from one to four ounces of gold. Currently, the ratio stands at 8.36 ounces to one unit of the Dow. Within 18 months, expect two things to occur: Gold will reach $1.500 per ounce and the Dow will smash through to the downside of 6000. It's almost an inevitability. Here's a little story about how to trade the gold and the Dow over the very long term, by Gary North, a guy who knows a thing or two about stocks and gold.

Tony Hayward, BP CEO, was grilled and pilloried on Capitol Hill this afternoon, as he should be. The remains of the Deepwater Horizon continue to spew thousands of barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, the situation growing worse every day. Correcting our story from yesterday, it's being reported that BP will not pay dividends for the remainder of the year, not just the upcoming quarter. That's three quarters of British pensioners going without their dividend checks, but, as is the case with stocks, that risk was always there. While some may call the BP situation a "Black Swan" event, they've literally created any number of black pelicans and other specie of the region and should not survive as a going concern.

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