Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Now, That IS Going to Leave a Mark

Investors take note. You are screwed.

Savers and buyers of precious metals, arable land, tools and staples, rejoice! Today our frugality, honesty and disdain for speculation has reaped significant dividends.

On Wall Street, billions of dollars were flushed in a panicked selling frenzy that appears to be just beginning. One should note that other major declines began in the Winter months, specifically, the bursting of the dot-com bubble which reached its peak on March 10, 2000, when the NASDAQ topped out at 5132.52. Within months, the high-flying tech-laden index was off by more than 25%. Within a year, it had been halved.

While this current one-day selling spree may not auger as much ill (though it could be even worse), it was the largest one-day decline on the markets since August of 2010 and unless Mr. Gadaffi (God only knows how to spell his name) changes his mind about dying a martyr on Libyan soil (remember Mubarak said something similar just weeks ago), this malaise coming from Norther Africa and the Middle East is going to hang over equity markets and oil prices for the foreseeable future.

In addition to the popular uprisings in Libya and across the oil-rich nations of the Middle East - and much less reported - was the release of the S&P/Case-Shiller housing survey (full report [PDF] here), which showed home prices declining for a 4th straight month. Essentially, the housing crisis is not over, despite the artificial stimulus of a federal tax credit to the tune of $9000 for home buyers in various parts of 2009 and 2010.

Those buyers were duped into buying overpriced houses, lured by our federal government. There will be years of pain and more defaults to come, for certain. Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix and Tampa all reached new lows in median prices. Other areas of the country were similarly down, with 18 of 20 major city areas posting declines. Released at 9:00 am, the report put a further chill into an already freezing futures market.

Stocks gaped down, with the Dow off 120 points minutes into the session, and it didn't get any better the remainder of the day.

Dow 12,212.79, -178.46 (1.44%)
NASDAQ 2,756.42, -77.53 (2.74%)
S&P 500 1,315.44, -27.57 (2.05%)
NYSE Composite 8,325.86, -182.04 (2.14%)

Declining issues slaughtered advancing issues, 5707-975, a ratio of nearly 6:1. The measure of new highs to new lows nearly reversed course, with 85 new highs on the NASDAQ, to 39 new lows. The Big Board remained skewed, with 139 new highs to just 14 new lows. Obviously, with such a paltry number of new lows, there is plenty of froth to be blown off this overheated, artificially-stimulated market. Volume was significantly higher than most recent up-day sessions, a notable development.

NASDAQ Volume 2,272,504,500
NYSE Volume 6,243,551,500

Commodities were raging. Crude oil futures on the NYMEX closed at $95.42, officially $5.41 higher, though it should be pointed out that Friday's close was just a shade over $86.

Gold finished at $1,401.10 and silver at $32.86, both having ramped up on Monday, when markets were closed, though trading volumes were very high.

The handwriting is quite clear. Investors are nervous over developments outside the US, and also inside, as the congress weighs passing a temporary, two-week continuing resolution, raising the debt ceiling only a little, and revisiting the issue again in a fortnight. This is the leadership we are offered, which can't get beyond partisan bickering to actually tackle the fundamental problems in the US economy.

Meanwhile, the stalemate continues in Wisconsin, with other states looking squarely at similar budgetary conditions and issues. 38 states have budget shortfalls which need to be addressed and the rhetoric surrounding the differences between public sector employees and those who pay their wages and benefits, the taxpayers.

If, like many, you've been aghast over the continual money-pumping by the Federal Reserve and the antecedent rise in stocks, you may want to pull up a chair and pay attention the next few weeks and months.

It's just starting to get interesting as the grand global Ponzi scheme by central bankers worldwide begins to unravel at a rapid pace.

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