Thursday, December 1, 2011

Stocks on Hold Ahead of November Non-Farm Payroll Data

As opposed to the risk on, risk off mantra so frequently used on up or down days, Thursday's markets could best be described as risk neutral.

Stocks criss-crossed the flat line in a narrow range, the Dow Jones Industrials never better than 17 points to the good in a range of less than 90 points.

Europe delivered no new information, though US data continued to roll in with some strength. The closely-watched ISM Index popped up to 52.7 in November after a reading of 50.8 in October.

Auto sales were strong in the month just ended, though General Motors (GM) lagged most rivals, showing a 6.9% increase from a year ago. Ford (F) said sales were up 13%, though all numbers reported paled by comparison to Chrysler's 45% increase from last November.

Recent sales and economic data continue to indicate that, despite the drag on the market from financial stocks and European worries, the US economy is rebounding quite strongly. Even though lawmakers in Washington are resembling the infamous "Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" with their continual posturing over tax and spending issues, Americans have taken matters into their own hands this holiday season and appear to be spending with gusto.

Whether the current momentum will be maintained is a matter to be worked out in the final three weeks of the holiday season and during January's traditional post-holiday discount period.

After Wednesday's hug upside move, traders seemed to have little interest in much of anything other than Friday's expected non-farm payroll data, due out one hour before the opening bell.

While ADP presaged the number with a solid 207,000 net private payroll increase on Wednesday, initial unemployment claims of 402,000 announced prior to Thursday's open threw a bit of cold water on investor optimism. Estimates range from 80,000 to 200,000 new jobs created in November, though the high end of the range is more an extrapolation from the ADP figures, which are often far afield from the BLS data.

Dow 12,020.03, -25.65 (0.21%)
NASDAQ 2,626.20, +5.86 (0.22%)
S&P 500 1,244.58, -2.38 (0.19%)
NYSE Composite 7,450.43, -34.07 (0.46%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,826,260,375
NYSE Volume 3,853,659,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2139-3481
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 144-76
WTI crude oil: 100.20, -0.16
Gold: 1,739.80, -10.50
Silver: 32.76, -0.05

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