Monday, June 6, 2011

Stocks Pounded Again as No Catalyst Exists; BofA Gets a Taste of Own Medicine

After last week's carnage, traders lined up on Monday for what looks to be one of the duller trading weeks of the year, though the Greek bailout crisis in Euroland might change the scenario a bit.

There is scant economic news and the quarter doesn't end until June 30, so there are no corporate quarterly earnings reports on which to trade, which leaves markets in a situation nearly resembling "every man for himself."

Inasmuch as traders are a courageous lot, there was some horse-swapping in the session, though most of it was in the form of shedding assets because the US economy looks to be falling back upon itself and could be headed for another recession. QE2 ends abruptly just after options expiration on the 17th, so one could expect an even more severe downturn at that time.

Banks are once again in the cross-hairs. They led today's decline and are possibly among the worst risk assets to be holding at present, especially in the case of the big ones: JP Morgan, BofA, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.

While many have taken to calling this a "soft patch" - which is just another term for "I have no idea because I only can make money when stocks go up" - more hardened economists see the current condition as analogous to the Fall of '08, as Greece (and maybe Spain, Portugal and Italy) takes the place of Lehman Brothers and another solvency crisis comes to bear.

However, it could be even deeper than that, with one of the major US banks finally throwing in the towel. In that case, it's likely to be Bank of America (BAC), which was highlighted in Fortune magazine on Friday.

In the article linked above, contributor Abigail Field - who has penned a number of solidly-researched pieces on the mortgage crisis - claims that the extent of sloppiness, incompleteness and outright fraud contained in mortgages originated and securitized by Countrywide (taken over by Bank of America in 2008) is likely much more severe and perverse than anyone had imagined and BofA wasn't letting on about it.

Bank of America is easily the one most crippled by the mortgage and foreclosure crisis and the extent of their losses may have been (probably is) grossly understated, both by the bank and by regulators. The sheer volume of bad loans, fraudulent documents and outright chaos in the mortgage servicing department of Bank of America would have taken down a smaller institution years ago, but BofA is the nation's largest bank and they've been aided continuously by the Federal Reserve, at taxpayer expense.

The severity of the crisis continues to dog the mega-bank at every turn and they may have to make the decision of off-board the entire Countrywide unit in order to salvage what remains of their institution. Of course, this is speculation, but the regulations still being written for the Dodd-Frank bill may be complete enough to call for an orderly winding down of the bank should it pose systemic risk, and surely it does.

To a lesser extent, Wells-Fargo (WFC) faces the same situation, as they managed to snatch up Wachovia - and all their no-doc, low-doc loans - during the turmoil of the financial crisis.

On the day, both stocks finished well into the red, with BAC falling to its lowest closing level since May 15, 2009, breaking below the close of 10.92 on November 30, 2010, losing 45 cents, to 10.83. Wells-Fargo (WFC) lost 0.60 to 26.26 and is close to making a double-bottom.

Today was a truly ugly day on Wall Street, as stocks simply lost value steadily, albeit slowly, throughout the session. The lows of the day were reached shortly after 3:00 pm and an abrupt rally fizzled in the final minutes. Nothing but reluctance to sell is keeping this market from an outright crash.

Dow 12,090.11, -61.15 (0.50%)
NASDAQ 2,702.56, -30.22 (1.11%)
S&P 500 1,286.17, -13.99 (1.08%)
NYSE Composite 8,115.87, -106.28 (1.29%)

Despite the modest declines, internals were shattered. Losers dominated winners, 5175-1436. The NASDAQ posted just 31 new highs, overwhelmed by 131 new lows. On the NYSE, there were just 27 new highs, but 65 new lows, putting the combined number at 58 new highs to 196 new lows. This is the third straight day of the lows beating the highs. On Thursday of last week, it was 115 to 76 and Friday saw 130-68, both in favor of new lows.

This is a very telling sign that we are about to enter a serious correction which should last months, at least through September. A ton of money has already fled stocks and more will follow. Volume was moderate, but only because there are fewer and fewer players every day.

NASDAQ Volume 1,826,802,125.00
NYSE Volume 4,034,310,000

Crude oil futures fell $1.21 to $99.01. Gold advanced $2.40, to $1544.80. Silver finished up 51 cents, at $36.80

Finally, in the video below, some justice was served in Florida, where Bank of America got their just deserts.

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