Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dead Money

Dow 11,457.47, -19.07 (0.17%)
NASDAQ 2,617.22, -10.50 (0.40%)
S&P 500 1,235.23, -6.36 (0.51%)
NYSE Composite 7,798.78, -56.44 (0.72%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,876,932,000
NYSE Volume 5,043,671,500

The numbers tell just about the whole story of today's uneventful trading. With just two weeks left in the year and Christmas now just ten days off, traders seem reluctant to take on new positions. Stocks are trading in a narrow range and for the third consecutive day, have sold off into the close, not a very encouraging sign.

Declining issues outpaced advancers, 4197-2299. On the NASDAQ, new highs bettered new lows, 167-32 and on the NYSE, 156-89, as convergence continues, especially on the NYSE. Volume was actually a little better than the low, low normal, and, with options expiring on Friday, the suspicion is that the smart money has already exited the trading area.

There simply is no catalyst for stocks besides the Fed's relentless pumping (another $6.8 billion today) and even that isn't enough to keep stocks positive. It raises the question of extending the Bush tax cuts and adding further stimulus by the congress. If conditions were so rosy, why the need for more easing on the fiscal side. Obviously, something is amiss.

One guess will be that the Christmas shopping season will be a minor disappointment, as will December jobs numbers, revealed the first week of January. Then there's the issue of corporate profits nearing the middle to end of the month. If they're not perfectly great, selling could become de rigeur.

Even commodities weren't moving today. Oil made a modest gain, up 34 cents, to $88.62. Gold fell sharply, losing $18.40, to $1,386.20. Silver slipped back another 54 cents, to $29.25.

It all looks very much like locking in year-end profits.

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