Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rattled Market Recovers in Late-Session Trade

Investors, worried over an imminent government shutdown, got another jolt of reality when it was reported that a 7.4 earthquake struck Japan just after 10:00 am EDT.

The quake struck in pretty much the same region as last month's 9.0 earthquake, but geologists quickly downgraded the temblor to 7.1 and eased fears over another tsunami, measuring this one at a mere one meter (roughly three feet). This most recent quake hit in what was the middle of the night in Japan, so reports were rather sketchy, though it appeared that damage had been minimal.

With the waning of that alarm, investors quickly got back to work buying stocks, bringing the major indices back to nearly break-even at the close.

Word out of Washington was still dire, suggesting that Republicans would force Democrats into a no-win situation without resolution of their differences and cause a government shutdown on Friday night, April 8, at midnight. While most Republicans and Democrats alike would prefer to work out the narrow $7 billion worth of difference on the current budget, the House Republicans, led by first-term Tea Partiers, seem intent on standing fast to ridiculous ideological riders that would defund Planned Parenthood and public support for PBS and NPR, and it appears that these freshman legislators are going to get what they cheered yesterday, an indefinite shutdown of non-essential government services, since the Obama administration and the Senate Democrats say they have negotiated in good faith and enough is enough.

Just a little more than a day is left to work out a compromise, though a meeting today between House leader John Boehner, senate leader Harry Reid and President Obama produced nothing other than a promise that the same leaders would meet again at 7:00 pm tonight.

In another grandstanding move, House Republicans pushed through a one-week funding bill that would provide paychecks for the military, though President Obama has promised a veto should the measure reach his desk. This is how the Republicans are holding the process captive, by using American servicemen and women as props in their political debate. This level of audacity and below-the-belt maneuvering is reserved to the worst politicians on the planet, though the House newcomers seem perfectly content to drive the country to the brink of insolvency.

Wall Street took it in stride, but the eventual fallout from shutting the government down for an extended period could have long-lasting consequences the newbie Republicans can hardly imagine.

Dow 12,409.49, -17.26 (0.14%)
NASDAQ 2,796.14, -3.68 (0.13%)
S&P 500 1,333.51, -2.03 (0.15%)
NYSE Composite 8,489.33, -18.90 (0.22%)

Even though the major indices finished in the red, there was a pronounced number of losers over winners, with declining issues beating back advancing ones, 4092-2427. The NASDAQ finished with 115 new highs and 24 new lows, while the NYSE saw 154 new highs and just 4 new lows. Volume, despite the drop and rally in the morning, was still very much on the light side.

NASDAQ Volume 1,811,538,125.00
NYSE Volume 4,322,927,000

The day's events did nothing to slow the rise in the price of oil, however, as WTI crude futures rose to $110.30, up another $1.47 on the day, as word that Libyan rebels were being pushed back by forces loyal to embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Gold made another new closing high, but only by an 80 cent gain, to $1,459.30. Silver tacked on 17 cents, to $39.55, another 31-year high.

With a looming government shutdown less than 36 hours away, markets are more than likely to remain somewhat stable, though a prolonged battle by the political leadership might be more than the fragile economy can handle. Sadly, the amount in question is tiny compared to the intellectual vacuity of the Tea Party Republicans.

No comments: