Friday, August 19, 2011

Stocks Continue Dive with 4th Straight Week of Losses

Not much changed overnight, and that was reflected in the performance of stock prices globally. The same themes continue popping up, causing confusion and derision among investors. The shaky situation in Europe, complete with protests and riots in England and Germany, the continued weak outlook for jobs in America and growth slowing to a standstill almost worldwide has fomented a rolling, four-week-long slide that has brought many of the national and sub-national indices close to bear territory.

In fact, adding in today's losses, the NASDAQ is on the precipice of becoming more than a correction, down 531 points since its April 29 highs, has lost 18.48%, only 1.52% from becoming a technical bear market.

The other averages are not quite so close. The Dow needs to lose roughly another 450 points before its losses from recent highs reach the dreaded 20% level, though the S&P 500 is closing ground, down 17.60%. Another drop of 35 points would not only send the highly-watched index into bear territory but underneath the psychologically important 1100 level.

After Asian markets tumbled and Europe continued the assault on investments, things looked dicey for US stocks prior to the opening, with futures sporting large downsides. After an initial thrust into the abyss, however, all the major US indices rebounded to post healthy gains by mid-morning.

But they were not to last. By 11:00 am EDT, most of the gains were wiped out and by 1:00 pm, the slide lower had resumed in earnest. Stocks eventually hit their low points of the day just minutes before the closing bell, a terrifying omen for Monday's trading.

Thus, trading ended badly, with major indices slumping for their fourth consecutive week.

Dow 10,817.65, -172.93 (1.57%)
NASDAQ 2,341.84, -38.59 (1.62%)
S&P 500 1,123.53, -17.12 (1.50%)
NYSE Composite 6,970.10, -109.31 (1.54%)

Declining issues beat back advancers, 4799-1807. New highs on the NASDAQ totaled just five (5), with 316 new lows. On the NYSE, there were only seven (7) new highs, but 279 new lows, putting the combined total at 12 new highs to 595 new lows. Citing those figures, anyone who believes this correction to have bottomed needs to seek professional help, preferably from any astute market watcher.

Volume was brisk, though not quite at yesterday's levels, another signal that the losses are only gathering momentum. The likelihood of all the indices falling into bear territory by Labor Day - ten trading sessions from now - is very high, almost a certainty, unless some major economic data changes the future outlook, which has turned from scarcely positive to undeniably negative over the past four weeks.

NASDAQ Volume 2,357,600,000
NYSE Volume 6,004,142,000

A slew of forecasters have cut their outlooks for GDP, including Moody's, which cut its forecast to 2%, and JP Morgan, who sees 4th quarter GDP at 1%, down from their previous 2.5% call and 1st quarter 2012 at 0.5%, down from 1.5% in their earlier outlook.

Citigroup cut its total 2011 growth forecast to 1.6% from 1.7% and lowered its projection for next year to 2.1 percent from 2.7 percent, according to a note to clients dated yesterday.

Of course, these analysts are known to be overly and overtly optimistic, so their tea leaves and crystal balls may not be the best estimates out there. Chances of a recession are being priced into stacks at about 60%.

Amid the carnage, oil prices, which had briefly dipped below $80/barrel early in the morning, went quickly positive when US markets opened, but closed the day with a 12 cent loss, at $82.26.

Once again, the big winners were precious metals, with gold cruising to another record high, up $26.60, at $1851.50 per ounce. Overnight, the intraday high topped out at $1878.90. The best gainer of the day, and also so far this year, was silver, which saw heavy buying, up $2.16 (a move of more than 5%), to $42.80, its highest price since May 3rd, when CME was putting on a series of six margin hikes to cool the shiny metal down.

Now, with the lid off and resistance broken, silver should continue to climb forward. Some strategists see it hitting the $44-46 range before labor day, which, considering today's drive, looks very possible.

One last note before the weekend. The Got Gold Report's Gene Arensberg updates his charts and concludes that silver is "very close to a short-murdering rocket launch again."

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