Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stocks Causing a Boom, or a Mirage?

If you're invested in stocks, you'll be happy to know that the Dow recorded its seventh straight gain today. It's been an incredible run from the last day of January through the first six trading days of February, with the most-watched stock index up a whopping 410 points over the seven-session run and up more than 2200 points since this leg of the rally began on September 1, 2010. That's a nifty 22% gain in just over five months - a very neat trick.

Stocks in general have been a great place to be for the last 23 months, since the bottom on March 9 2009, with the major averages all up more than 80%.

Should one argue with such success? Maybe not. Maybe Ben Bernanke knows exactly what he's doing by continuously inflating the money supply, even though his critics argue that he's causing severe inflation and a bubble in commodities or that his practices will eventually implode in a hyperinflationary event that will kill the US dollar.

So far, the commodity trade has been profitable, and it may be nearing bubble status, though it seems to have calmed recently. The long term effects of Bernanke's runaway money-printing policy will not be evident for many more months, since he's planning on continued bond repurchases (his preferred method of handing out the gelt) through June of this year.

Before that, we'll have great gnashing of teeth and showing of fangs by aroused congressmen, mostly of the Republican variety, and a renewed debate over raising the debt limit to something beyond $15 trillion. The show on the hill will no doubt be one for the ages, but in the end will likely amount to little more than theatrics, of which the congress is highly skilled. Many in the chambers of our two legislative branches could have just as easily made themselves famous in Hollywood or Broadway. Arguably, the path to stardom and the ultimate pay scale is much better in Washington, however.

One cannot argue with the stock market performance, however. Whatever your political stripes or economic theory, the gains have been potent and powerful. Whether they will last, once the Fed pulls the plug and stops its endless printing regime, is open to debate.

Dow 12,233.15, +71.52 (0.59%)
NASDAQ 2,797.05, +13.06 (0.47%)
S&P 500 1,324.57, +5.52 (0.42%)
NYSE Composite 8,379.85, +43.21 (0.52%)

As expected, advancing issues soared past decliners, 4978-2538. NASDAQ New highs: 168; new lows: 19. NYSE new highs: 266; new lows: 11. Volume was very low again.

NASDAQ Volume 1,816,377,500
NYSE Volume 4,428,776,000

Commodities piqued some interest today on both sides of the ledger. Crude oil was down 54 cents, to $86.94, continuing a trend. Gold gained $15.90, to $1,364.10, while silver headed again toward recent highs, up 93 cents, to $30.27.

Meredith Whitney has drawn the ire of legislators on Capitol Hill for her call for a Muni bond crash.

Ms. Meredith see looming shortfalls in state budgets fomenting failure in a slew of public works projects, ending in defaulted bond offerings. Others feel there's more to it - like unfunded future liabilities - and that many states face an uphill battle, though their fates could be relieved by a robust economy.

We bring you both Meredith Whitney and James Pethokoukis in the very same video:

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