Thursday, June 24, 2010

One More Ugly Day for Stocks Following Fed Statement

On the heels of the FOMC rate policy announcement - one which possibly reached new levels of double-talk and misleading innuendo - stocks sold off rapidly at the open and again into the close.

The simple fact of the matter is that heavy trading is normally done in two specific time periods - in the first half hour and in the final hour of trading. On Thursday, the Dow lost roughly 100 points by 10:00 am, and another 45 from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. That pretty much summed up how investors were feeling a day after the Fed threw itself on it own sword of interest rate policy and effectively left US markets to fend for themselves.

While the losses today were substantial, it is worth noting that volume wasn't particularly strong; however, that should be put into the perspective of an overall weak market - the case since the financial implosion of 2008. Trading volume may never recover to the glory days of the great bull run from 2003-2007 as many individuals and a spate of investment firms have permanently soured on US stocks.

Wild gyrations, uncertain times and volatile conditions do not a stable market make, and these times could hardly be described as stable. Government intervention into all areas of public and private finances also have made many shy away from investing in equities. Nonetheless, there are still those who will try to quantify risk - such as the friend who told me that he made a considerable investment in BP on Tuesday (I do not know what he deems "considerable," but in any case I felt impelled to tell him I thought it was a mistake, and he is already on the wrong side of the trade.) - in search of ever-elusive gains.

There are also pension funds, mutual funds, hedge funds and any manner of investment vehicles which are chartered to invest in stocks, like it or not, so there will likely always be ample supply of buyers and sellers no matter the level of greed, fear and risk tolerance.

Considering the current climate, stocks are not favorable investments for anybody except those with excess cash on hand (wealthy), and even then, investing today may be more akin to gambling or just plain flushing money down the nearest toilet.

Let's take a look:

Dow 10,152.80, -145.64 (1.41%)
NASDAQ 2,217.42, -36.81 (1.63%)
S&P 500 1,073.69, -18.35 (1.68%)
NYSE Composite 6,730.24, -119.81 (1.75%)

Not a very pretty picture, there. Declining issues beat down advancers once more, today by a wide margin, 4914-1535 (3:1). New lows screamed past new highs, 159-92. Volume was light, but not exceedingly so. There was some serious dumping of losers going on and the number of bulls in attendance were not nearly sufficient to scare off the short-siders.

NYSE Volume 5,595,221,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,049,015,500

About the only place to make money was in the precious metals, though it wasn't much. Gold finished at $1,245.50, a gain of $11.40. Silver pushed ahead 28 cents, to $18.73. Crude oil fared less well, with futures for August delivery up a scrawny 16 cents, to $76.51.

The only economic news of any importance was prior to the open. Durable goods orders for May declined 1.1%. The weekly initial jobless claims stayed at about the same level they've been at for months, with 457,000 new unemployment applications.

With poor data setting the tone, stocks slumped. On Friday, the government releases its third and final estimate of 1st quarter GDP, expected to remain stable at 3%. With the release at 8:30 am, that should have little impact on the week's last day of trading.

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