Friday, September 30, 2011

Third Quarter a Stinker for Stocks; NASDAQ, SP Down 14%

The Markets

The third quarter officially ended today on September 30, and, unlike the usual quarter-ending, window-dressing ramp job, stocks suffered through their worst day of the week, in a month and quarter that was one of the worst of recent memory - and there have been some bad ones, recently.

The Dow Jones Industrials ended the quarter off more than 12%. The S&P and NASDAQ were rocked lower by 14%.

In simple terms, anybody in an index fund with $100,000 at the end of June, now has somewhere between $86,000 and $88,000. That may not sound like much, but $12-14,000 is roughly equivalent to the wages for a minimum-wage worker for a year. That's not a good sign for the bottom income earners in American society, because it means that the "wealth creators" so often cited by Republican office-seekers, have one minimum wage job less than they can create, should they now choose to part with some of that hard-earned (and easily lost) cash.

On the day, stocks started lower, stabilized, but fell off a veritable cliff into the close. There was no window dressing, no PPT push, no ETF re-balancing or anything to keep stocks afloat into the close. Nobody seemed willing to take significant positions in stocks, even though the 4th quarter is historically the best for stocks. The levels of gloom and doom rival those of the disastrous 4th quarter of 2008, when the global financial crisis was first realized and stocks gyrated lower and lower and lower.

Not only were stocks affected negatively during the month and quarter, but most commodities also fell by extraordinary percentages, especially gold and silver, which were whacked roughly 16 and 25% respectively. There was no place to hide for even the most conservative investors. Yields on Treasuries fell like rocks off a precipice. Bond yields for the 2-year, 5-year and 10-year note fell 40-45% in the quarter. The benchmark 10-year note closed out the quarter at a yield of 1.90%. The 30-year bond was the best performer of an ugly bunch, with yields falling only 35% since the end of June.

Crude oil was down 17% in the quarter, though gas prices at the pump have barely matched the decline. With gas prices nearly $4.00 a gallon at the beginning of summer, the average price - if 17% is the expected decline - should be around $3.35, though the AAA Fuel Gauge Report has the national average at $3.44. For perspective on how high real gasoline prices are, the price at the same time last year was a celebratory $2.69.

In company news, Eastman Kodak (EK), once a proud member of the Dow 30, fell 54% on the day amid reports that the company had hired the law firm Jones Day to discuss reorganization plans or a bankruptcy filing. Shares of Eastman Kodak dropped 91 cents to close at 0.78, an historic low.

Bank of America (BAC) plans to begin charging debit card users a $5 monthly fee in January, 2012, due to changes in the amounts banks can charge merchants per debit card use. BAC finished the day 23 cents lower, at 6.12.

Big corporate bankruptcies are dead ahead, likely to commence in the fourth quarter and accelerate through the first three quarters of 2012. Third quarter earnings reports kick off on October 11, when Alcoa (AA) reports after the bell.

Thank goodness for the baseball playoffs and football. Yeesh!

Dow 10,913.38 240.60 (2.16%)
NASDAQ 2,415.40 65.36 (2.63%)
S&P 500 1,131.42 28.98 (2.50%)
NYSE Compos 6,791.65 183.26 (2.63%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,081,539,875.00
NYSE Volume 5,323,945,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1442-5118
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 31-515 (look out below!)
WTI crude oil: 78.65, -3.47
Gold: 1623.80, +7.90
Silver: 29.94, -0.73

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