Thursday, January 27, 2011

Unemployment Up, Durable Orders Slip, But Markets Stable

Just in case anybody thinks that Bernanke's QE2 program isn't working perfectly (in other words, shoveling billions of dollars to the nation's largest banks), a quick recap of today's headlines and the resultant market moves should suffice to argue that US stock markets have permanently divorced themselves from reality.

Initial jobless claims came in at 454,000 in the most recent week. The market was looking for 400,000. Oops! The official reason for the rise from last week's reported 403,000, and the highest number since October was snow. OK, we're officially not buying that.

Durable orders for December declined by 2.5%. Analysts were expecting a gain of 1.5%. After all, Christmas falls in December, and everybody got a Lexus, right?

As tensions mount in Egypt in advance of tomorrow's largest protest to date - led by former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei - the US State Department has advised president Hosni Mubarak to remain calm, though the days of the strongman leader seem to be numbered. In the aftermath of the Tunesian revolution, Algeria and Yemen, along with Egypt, appear to be on the brink of revolt.

Apparently, this spate of less-than-encouraging news was insufficient for equity investors to seek investments with less risk. Maybe they - or the computers controlling the trading - are standing pat, awaiting the first announcement of 4th quarter GDP tomorrow at 8:30 am. The official estimate is that the US economy grew at a 3.8% annualized rate, after the third quarter came in at 2.6%. Those hoping for a strong GDP number may wish to recall that residential real estate nearly ground to a halt in the 4th quarter, due to the fruadclosure scandal and that's not a big positive. The number ought to be interesting, just to see how far the government will go to convince everyone that the recovery is real and continuing, when the facts say the recession never actually ended and the only place in the country feeling particularly good about things in in lower Manhattan.

Dow 11,989.83, +4.39 (0.04%)
NASDAQ 2,755.28, +15.78 (0.58%)
S&P 500 1,299.54, +2.91 (0.22%)
NYSE Composite 8,207.06, +13.42 (0.16%)

Major indices were all marginally higher on the day, though the psychological barriers at Dow 12,000 and S&P 1300 remained difficult to breach. Both indices briefly advanced into the beyond, but generally flatlined below those levels for the bulk of the session. Internals suggest an unconvinced market sentiment, with 3454 stocks advancing and 2964 declining.

There were 159 new highs and 14 new lows on the NASDAQ, while on the NYSE new highs led new lows, 252-9. Volume was slight, as usual.

NASDAQ Volume 2,033,972,000
NYSE Volume 4,773,436,000

Commodities were mostly beaten down, as NYMEX crude dipped another $1.69, continuing the recent trend, to $85.64. Gold also remained under pressure, dropping another $14.60, to $1,318.40, back to October, 2010 levels. Silver dropped 10 cents, to $27.03, well off the December highs of $31.

The disconnect between the markets and reality is palpable. The wheels came off a long time ago, but the sputtering US economy has yet to be reflected by the Fed-fueled stock markets. Something's got to give, and when it does, it should be big.

After hours, Amazon (AMZN) released 4th quarter earnings and investors were not amused, sending the stock down to 166.74 a loss of 17.71 (-9.60%) at 5:00 pm EDT.

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