Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Trend is Lower for US Equities

Stocks gave back some of the outsize gains of the past two weeks in another sign that the summer rally is at an end. Earnings reports are dwindling down, though a few key companies are still releasing figures. For the most part, however, investors are looking beyond the earnings numbers and taking closer inspection of overall economic data, like this morning's June Durable Goods report showing a 1.0% decline after a downwardly-revised 0.8% drop in May.

That report put a pall over the markets and stocks struggled throughout the session. Most of the losses came after the release of the Fed's beige book at 2:00 pm, which confirmed what many already knew: the US economy is slowing down, though not yet experiencing negative growth. With this weighing on the minds of investors, some were quick to take profits, though there still seem to be plenty of buyers keeping stocks at elevated levels.

Dow 10,497.88, -39.81 (0.38%)
NASDAQ 2,264.56, -23.69 (1.04%)
S&P 500 1,106.13, -7.71 (0.69%)
NYSE Composite 6,999.18, -45.81 (0.65%)

Declining issues held their edge over advancers for the second straight session, 4357-2048 (2:1), though new highs continued their advantage over new lows, 203-68. The divergence, not only in the high-lows vs. the A-D line, but also in the relative out-performance of the Dow over the NASDAQ, signals a good deal of confusion in the markets, and the markets generally don't appreciate confusion. Tops on the list of confusing issues is the decoupling of listed companies from the US economy. Companies have shown strong performance in their most recent earnings reports, but all of the US economic news has been on the sorry side. This is emblematic of US-based companies actually deriving major portions of their revenue offshore, particularly in Asia and Latin America, two areas which are on the opposite side of the Euro-Us debt collapse.

NASDAQ Volume 1,865,542,625
NYSE Volume 4,554,030,500

Adding to market woes was the announcement - late in the day - by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that the the Golden State was now in an official "state of emergency" triggering an executive order which calls for state employees to begin mandatory 3 day per month furloughs without pay starting in August.

The issue is the state's $19 billion budget shortfall, and the legislature's unwillingness to bring spending and revenue into equilibrium. With states across the country gearing up for fall semesters of schooling and teacher unions refusing to budge on key wage and benefit issues, California has effectively fired a warning shot across the collective bows of state capitols, many of which are facing serious budget shortfalls and intransigent government worker unions.

The commodity space was unsettled as well, with oil down again, by 51 cents, to $76.99. Gold gained a paltry $2.40, to $1,160.40, while silver declined 20 cents, to $17.42.

Market inconsistency should come to a head by Friday, when the government releases its first estimate of second quarter GDP prior to the opening bell. Thursday's initial unemployment claims will also be closely watched.

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