Monday, October 17, 2011

G20, Merkel, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, NY ManuafacturingSink Stocks

Well, those last two weeks were certainly fun if you were long equities, so get ready for two weeks of pain, as that seems to be the general pattern of our over-hyped, over-controlled and manipulated crony capitalism markets.

Stocks have run up and down in a range on the S&P 500 from a low of 1099 to a high of 1224 since August 4th, after stocks took a tumble from their late-July highs. Volatility has been unusually high during the period, as uncertainty over US debt, European solvency and the continued threat of global recession weight on investors and speculators.

Starting on Saturday with the ludicrous demands of the G20 central bankers and finance ministers that Europe fix its debt problems by October 23, news flow has once again turned decidedly negative. Upon hearing the dictates from the G20 that leaders attending the European Union summit, "decisively address the current challenges through a comprehensive plan," Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, quickly tamped down expectations through spokesman Steffan Seibert, stating that "the dreams that are emerging again, that on Monday everything will be resolved and everything will be over will again not be fulfilled."

Those were the news items facing stocks in New York as the opening bell approached, but, prior to the regular casino-esque ring-a-ling at 9:30 am EDT, a couple of banks released third quarter earnings that sent futures lower. First up was Citigroup (C), which announced earnings of $1.23 per share on analyst expectations of 88 cents. At first glance, the quarter seemed positive, but accounting gimmicks provided most of the (mostly) phantom revenue.

The results included a pretax gain of $1.9 billion, or 39 cents per share after taxes, due to the bank's widening credit spreads during the quarter. When a bank's debt weakens relative to U.S. Treasuries, it can record an accounting gain because it could theoretically profit from buying back its own debt. Along with the idea that the bank was making money on its own worsening credit risk, Citi also lowered loan-loss reserves, further fluffing the quarterly profit picture.

Initially, investors bought into the grand scheme, sending the stock higher in early trading, but by the end of the day, the ruse had been found out and Citigroup stock sold off by 0.47, ending the session close to its lows, at 27.93.

Wells Fargo (WFC) came out with its earnings right after Citigroup, and though the numbers were more straightforward, the overall picture was dim. The bank said it earned 72 cents per share in the quarter, a penny below consensus estimates. Even though it was an improvement of 21%, revenue was down and the company lowered loan-loss reserved by $800 million, boosting the numbers. Traders sold off the company stock to the tune of a nearly 8.5% loss, ending the day down 2.25, at 24.42.

As if the bad reports from two of the nation's largest banks wasn't enough, New York state's empire manufacturing index continued to scrape along the bottom, posting -8.48 for October after a reading of -8.82 in September. Readings on national capacity utilization and industrial production returned basically flat.

Stocks sold off right at the open and continued a slow, painful decline throughout the remainder of the session. If the whole idea of the rally from the past two weeks was to sell off into options expiration on Friday, the downbeat news arrived right on time.

Even IBM, which reported after the close, could not garner any support. Big Blue was off almost 4% in after-hours trading, following their reported narrow beats on earnings and revenue.

Two more big banks report tomorrow and their 3rd quarters ought to be real doozies. Goldman sachs is expected to post a loss for the quarter, while Bank of America can float out whatever numbers it chooses. Nobody will believe any of them.

Dow 11,397.00 247.49 (2.13%)
NASDAQ 2,614.92 52.93 (1.98%)
S&P 500 1,200.86 23.72 (1.94%)
NYSE Compos 7,188.66 161.80 (2.20%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,711,161,000.00
NYSE Volume 4,203,815,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1322-5177
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 38-47
WTI crude oil: 86.32, -0.48
Gold: 1,676.60, -6.40
Silver: 31.82, -0.35

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