Thursday, December 15, 2011

Despite Positive Data, Market Rally Fizzles; Something About Ties Is Untrustworthy

You might as well call this a down day for the US markets.

Stocks were up at the open on some positive economic data, but, thanks to Christine Legarde, head of the IMF, the fear of Europe sent traders scurrying for the sell buttons.

Hop-scotching the Headlines (trust, this will all tie together):

Initial unemployment claims reached a level not seen in 3 1/2 years, falling to 366,000, though, as expressed in a post a few days back, government numbers may not be the most trustworthy. Unadjusted figures totaled 433,287 in the week ending December 10, a decrease of 95,506 from the previous week, which implies that last week's numbers may have been abnormally LOW. Some people are paying attention to the unadjusted, non-politicized data.

PPI for November was up 0.3%. Core PPI was up 0.1%. No surprises there.

The NYS Manufacturing Index came in at 9.53 for December, a dramatic rise from November's reading of 0.61. Similarly, the Philadelphia Fed's index read at 10.3, a majestic rise from November's 3.60. Those were somewhat of a surprise, though the data is supplied by the Federal Reserve. Trust them? Maybe. Maybe not.

Industrial Production: -0.2%; Capacity Utilization was 77.8%. Both of those figures were fairly static.

So, the markets opened with healthy gains until Lagarde, on her megaphone from Europe, said that no country was immune from Europe's crisis and that the outlook for the world economy was "quite gloomy." Her words. She's not very funny, which, being French, partially explains why French people think Jerry Lewis is a comic genius.

(In a conversation with a postal employee today, I joked that maybe I was getting so many orders from Europe lately because they want to spend their Euros before they become worthless. I may be on to something.)

No matter what, Lagarde's comments put the markets into a tailspin, from which they did not recover. Stocks ended the day down about 60% from their highs. It was not pretty, nor exciting. Volume was, using CNBC's Bob Pisani's word, "anemic."

Morgan Stanley plans on cutting 1600 jobs, which is about 3% of their workforce. That's limited in comparison to other cuts in the finance business. Globally, more than 200,000 wheeler-dealers are going to be slashed, downsized and dumped.

Freddie Mac (the firm which paid Newt Gingrich over a million dollar in consulting fees) says that mortgage rates have hit all-time lows, with 30-year fixed loans at 3.94 and 15-year fixed at 3.21, but, nobody's buying.

Really, nobody. The National Association of Realtors is going to revise existing home sales for the past five years, dating back to 2007 (incidentally, when the real estate boom went bust) on Hanukkah, which is December 21. If that's just bad timing on their part, well, Happy Hanukkah! But, but, but, maybe we can't trust numbers supplied by realtors, either. Add them to bankers, accountants, government officials, meteorologists (yes, the National Hurricane Center said recently that their last 20 years of forecasting seasonal hurricanes was rubbish. Look it up. ON BING.), judges and lawyers. Oddly enough, all of these types wear ties when they're working. As far as can be told, none of them sleep naked, either. Very strange.

In a grossly under-reported story, OPEC ministers set a production ceiling of 30 million barrels a day, which begs the question about oil prices in the $90+ per barrel range. There's enough and demand is slack. It should be cheaper and it got cheaper today.

And just in case anyone hasn't noticed, tomorrow is December options expiry, which usually implies a massive ramp up in prices for stocks leading into it, but, but, but, stocks have been getting beaten down mercilessly for the past week. Is that bullish? Probably not.

Oh, and the CME group wants to know where that missing money from MF Global (Does the MF really stand for that vulgar ghetto slang term? Probably.) is. Top executives of the firm are suing Jon Corzine and other top executives of MF Global for undisclosed amounts and damages. They are seeking class action status. According to Business Insider, the brainchild of former Wall Street analyst Henry Blodget (who wears a tie, but can probably be trusted since he is barred from all Wall Street trading and "official" analysis and probably sleeps naked on occasion) the suit was filed a week ago, on December 8, and nobody noticed until today.

So, that's what moved US markets today, except that the level of fear on Wall Street is probably at a point so high that Charlie Sheen, even on his finest cocaine-and-liquor float, couldn't get up there.

Psst, wanna buy some stocks?

Dow 11,868.81, +45.33 (0.38%)
NASDAQ 2,541.01, +1.70 (0.07%)
S&P 500 1,215.75, +3.93 (0.32%)
NYSE Composite 7,217.12, +32.37 (0.45%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,750,499,375
NYSE Volume 3,767,349,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3399-2200
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 72-179
WTI crude oil: 93.87, -1.08
Gold: 1,577.20, -9.70
Silver: 29.27, +0.34

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