Wednesday, December 14, 2011

LIQUIDATION DAY: Stocks, Oil, Gold, Silver All Whacked

If one is expert at reading the market's tea leaves, today was an opportunity to test your skills on just what the massive, liquidation-style selling in commodities was foretelling.

Since there wasn't any news from Europe upon which to trade, perhaps it had something to do with yesterday's non-eventful Fed policy announcement. Many of the larger market participants were hoping the Fed would announce some new iteration of QE, and, since there was none, decided - as of yesterday at about 2:30 pm - to begin liquidating assets in as orderly a manner possible without spooking the markets.

If that was the case - and it's probably not - the markets got a bit spooky in today's trading, though the real action was in commodities, especially oil, gold and silver, which were pounded down so hard it seemed that some of the world's most valuable assets were quickly becoming worthless.

The reality of the matter is probably much simpler, though unseen to most casual observers. Since last week, when the ECB and EU met on the last two days of the week, stocks have been rending lower, and today came the margin calls for anybody long equities and stretched out. There's also the much larger matter of imminent danger in Europe, either in the form of a complete and final Greek default, a bailout of Germany's CommerzBank or perhaps the ultimate collapse of the Euro as a currency of any value, the continent's plaything falling below the critical 1.30 level against the US Dollar today.

Libor rates have been on the rise recently and spreads are also widening, exacerbating the already tense liquidity condition for Europe-based banks. China and India are seeing growth stall out, mostly due to the dire conditions in Europe, but also due to internal stresses.

Perhaps it's the combination of all these bad things happening at once, which is not coincidental in today's globally-connected financial universe. When tough times come to one of the major developed countries or regions, like the Euro-zone, the ripples are felt around the world, and surely, judging by the weight and depth of today's commodity rout, something very fundamentally wrong is about to commence, because massive outflows from gold, especially, usually signal a liquidation event. And liquidation events usually precede solvency events, which, for most of the Southern European nations, is at the heart of the matter.

Gold was down massively, but was easily outdone on a percentage basis by its fellow PM cousin, silver, which broke through support levels and finished in New York down nearly 7.5 percent. So much for safe harbors! Crude oil, about which just about anyone who drives a car wishes it were at $65 per barrel instead of $100, took a deep slide as put contracts at a $65 strike in latter 2012 continue to pile up, potentially pushing the commodity futures into backwardation as the world supply has quickly become a glut on soft demand.

As far as stocks are concerned, the sense is that a lot of traders are closing their books for the year, locking in whatever profits they might have and selling off losers, as the trend in new highs vs. new lows would indicate.

US indices are just about at break even for the year, which is quickly coming to an end, with just 12 trading sessions remaining in 2011. The Dow Jones Industrials, the most resilient of the US indices, is up less than 3% on the year, or 246 points. The S&P and NASDAQ are already in the red to the tune of a 3-4% decline on the year and NYSE Composite takes the cake, down 780 points since last December 31, a nearly 10% decline.

Sure enough, something very disturbing to financial markets is primed for implosion. It's probably Europe, and it's probably going to be very bad and not fixable. Meanwhile, back on Wall Street, the masters of the universe are searching the skies for a jolly fat man on a sleigh pulled by reindeer in hopes that the highly-anticipated and nearly-annual event of a Christmas rally will get them back somewhere close to even by year's end. As for the highs reached back in April, forget them. Those levels may not be seen again for another 10 to 20 years.

Special shout-out to DanK, who turns a youthful 59 today. Hey, another 1/2 year and Dan can start liquidating his IRA without penalty. There is a silver lining, even though silver ain't exactly what it used to be, say, eight months ago.

Dow 11,823.48, -131.46 (1.10%)
NASDAQ 2,539.31, -39.96 (1.55%)
S&P 500 1,211.82, -13.91 (1.13%)
NYSE Composite 7,184.75, -92.87 (1.28%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,794,074,500
NYSE Volume 4,233,398,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1784-3900
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 72-256 (three straight days in the red, and widening)
WTI crude oil: 94.95, -5.19
Gold: 1,586.90, -76.20
Silver: 28.94, -2.33

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