Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Euro Finance Ministers Meeting Cancelled; US Stocks Take a Dive

Anybody with half a brain and even a cursory understanding of Europe's debt crisis (or, circus) could have and should have seen this coming a mile away: the meeting of European finance ministers, scheduled for Wednesday, has been cancelled. While the general summit of Euro zone nation leaders will still occur, as planned, the finance minister meeting was supposed to issue some kind of document or plan outlining the strategy of saving Greece and other nations from defaulting.

The 27 member ecofin meeting was supposed to have dealt with the recapitalization of many of Europe's largest banks, most of which have been decimated by ongoing debt issues in Greece, Portugal and Ireland. While this particular piece of the Euro puzzle has temporarily been put on hold, the general summit of Eurozone leaders will combine the bank issues with two other important elements: how to deal with the losses incurred by banks which loaned to Greece (the bond "haircut") and how large (and leveraged) the bailout EFSF fund will be.

As has been the case in the recent past, US stocks took a major hit on news that Europe was still inching toward a comprehensive solution. Expert opinion now believes that the Euro situation will take months and probably years to be worked out; any proposed solutions will have to go through a rigorous process of scrutiny and ratification by member nations. In the meantime, Europe is sinking faster and faster into recession and citizens are rightfully angered over the inability of leaders to come to any kind of meaningful consensus on the various great problems.

If this seems like deja vu all over again, it's because the Europeans are master foot-draggers, routinely missing deadlines and making delays - for any manner of reasons - on important, pressing issues. This is just more of the same, and the game is getting very old, very quickly.

Here in the US, the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city and 10-city composite readings for August came in below their year-ago levels by 3.8 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively, though both indices edged up slightly over July, posting a gain of 0.2%. In essence, what the Case-Shiller survey found was that while home prices are still falling, year-over-year, they are not falling as quickly, though that's of little comfort to the millions of homeowners whose homes are worth well less than what they paid for them, a condition known as being underwater.

At 10:00 am EDT, the Conference Board released its latest consumer confidence reading, finding that confidence was at a level not seen since the depths of the 2008-09 recession, at 39.8. Also, only 9.1% of respondents are expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months, a depressing figure considering that the US is supposed to be a good 12-18 months into recovery.

Stock traders sense that things are not going well, despite the markets in October having one of their best months of the year. Sooner or later the truth will set everyone free.

Dow 11,706.62 207.00 (1.74%)
NASDAQ 2,638.42 61.02 (2.26%)
S&P 500 1,229.05 25.14 (2.00%)
NYSE Compos 7,400.82 146.81 (1.95%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,810,687,875.00
NYSE Volume 4,406,436,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1024-4602
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 67-35
WTI crude oil: 93.17, +1.90
Gold: 1,700.40, +48.10
Silver: 33.05, +1.41

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