Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Much Ado About LTRO, or, Ben-Zero Bernanke's Attack on Gold (and silver)

As mentioned here yesterday, the turbid markets were about to get a lot more interesting with the ECB's LTRO and Ben Bernanke's testimony before the House.

What a fascinating and interesting look inside the workings of coordinated central bank policy it was.

Europe's LTRO went off, as expected, without a hitch. According to the Wall Street Journal:
The European Central Bank released the results Wednesday of the second round of its long-term refinancing operation. A total of 800 banks participated, and the ECB allotted €529.53 billion in the three-year refinancing operation.

This was more than the €489 billion the ECB loaned out to 523 banks in December on the same terms, 1% over three years. Giddy-up!

Perhaps the "struggling" banks - which will now park most of the money at the EBC for a 0.75% annual loss - thought that this was their last chance at almost-free money and more of them jumped at the chance, despite the stigma associated with suspect, "bailout" money, which is part of the reason why so many people the world over despise bankers. They will take when money's cheap, but they will not loan it out to businesses or individuals despite usurious rates of return. Rather, they will take a loss in order to retain their lofty position as worthy of "salvation."

Thus, the banks have become the scourge of the earth, keeping their wealth to themselves and impoverishing every man, woman and child on the planet in the process.

So, no big news there. More of the same by the kleptocracy.

European equity markets responded with a large yawn, finishing mixed, but mostly down, the worst hit being the UK's FTSE.

Buoyed by the success in Europe and a positive second revision to 2011 fourth quarter GDP (up to 3.0% after an intial reading of 2.8%), US stocks opened with a mild upside bias.

Then came round two, when the central bank plans really came together. As soon as Ben Bernanke started speaking, gold and silver began dropping, fast, like $3.50 in just over an hour for silver, from $37.50 to $34.00 the ounce.

Gold was off by as much as $80 in the same time span, and oil also took a hit, but - get this - oil recovered to finish the day with a gain. the precious metals, anathema to central bankers, recovered a bit, though not much.

The widely-spread rationale was that Bernanke was not his usual dovish self, as he didn't signal that any further quantitative easing (QE) was forthcoming from the Fed. Naturally, this cover story flies in the face of the Fed's lax monetary zero interest rate policy (ZIRP), Operation Twist and the ceaseless, clandestine money-pumping which the Federal Reserve has engaged in for the last three years running.

As a bonus, the central bank market interventionists even managed to take a little steam out of stocks, as all major US indices finished lower, but nowhere near the percentage losses suffered by those crazy gold and silver investors who believe - rightly - that the PMs are actually money and a better store of value than fiat money which is printed on demand by the globalists. Interestingly, trading volume today was the highest seen in weeks.

Perhaps precious metals investors should have known something bad was about to happen when Texas congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul harangued Bernanke on inflation, monetary policy and the role of the Fed, brandishing a silver coin and telling the chairman that the Fed would eventually "self-destruct."

Here's the fascinating video:

A few more experts weighing in on today's "gold smash" included Jim Sincliar, who called today's action "window dressing" for more QE, and Sprott Asset Management's John Embry, who called out the bullion banks as manipulators.

The situation could not be more clear. Central banks will print, print, print until they've inflated away all wealth, and they will hate gold (and silver) and keep prices artificially low, until the day comes when they dump all their worthless paper assets en masse and buy up every last ounce of the yellow metal.

Until then, don't fall for the "no new QE" stories. The printing presses will run non-stop. They have to, since the global bankers, with tacit permission from the pals in government, have produced a no-win situation by trying to solve a solvency problem with liquidity, throwing more debt on top of already too much debt, as if pouring more water onto a drowning man is supposed to help save him.

Dow 12,952.07, -53.05 (0.41%)
NASDAQ 2,966.89, -19.87 (0.67%)
S&P 500 1,365.68, -6.50 (0.47%)
NYSE Composite 8,113.55, -58.00 (0.71%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,092,803,750
NYSE Volume 4,389,318,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1726-3925
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 230-40
WTI crude oil: 107.07, +0.52
Gold: 1,711.30, -77.10
Silver: 34.58, -2.56

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dow Finally Closes Above 13,000 as Silver Breaks Out

Fueled by ever-larger injections of liquidity from the world's central banks, US equity markets have been disconnected from economic reality for some time, but today's shrug of the shoulders to two key economic reports has to make old-time "investors" wondering if hard numbers actually mean anything anymore.

Prior to the open, the Commerce Department released durable order data for January, which showed a 4.0% decline over the prior month. (Shrug shoulders if you trade stocks)

At 10:00 am, S&P/Case-Shiller data on home prices came in with a loud thud, matching the durable number at -4.0% for December. The widely watched index of home prices has now exceeded the post-crash lows and is at its lowest level since February, 2003, a 33.8% drop from the peak. If there is a recovery in housing, it certainly is well-hidden.

Despite the negativity of stubborn reality, stocks managed to post small gains across the board, with the Dow Jones Industrials closing above 13,000 for the first time since May, 2008. (cue fanfare here)

So, now that everybody can pop the champagne and don their "Dow 13,000" beanies, what's next?

Just in case you've tired of the constancy of the stock market, hovering around Dow 13,000 for more than a week in a very slow-moving, retarded kind of way on abysmally-low volume, take heart! Things are about to get a whole lot more interesting beginning Wednesday.

That's the day the ECB unleases its latest attempt to advance liquidity and goose markets (and inflation) with the second installment of the LTRO (Long Term Refinancing Operation), in which European banks will be offered up to EUR500 billion in three-year loans at the bargain-basement price of 1% (how appropriate!).

Back in December, the ECB did the same thing, and EUR489 billion was snatched up by some 523 institutions, though much of the money was eventually parked right back at the ECB, earning a measly 0.25%, resulting in small, albeit manageable losses for many of Europe's largest banks. To the banks, the 0.75% negative carry seemed a good enough deal to have funds on hand should the crisis deepen or a rogue trader muck up the balance sheet.

Ideally, the ECB would like the funding banks to snatch up more of that juicy sovereign debt that continues to float around in the Eurozone like so much flotsam and jetsam, but the LTRO also carries something of a stench of its own, via the equity markets, where the takers of the nearly-free money are cast under a dubious light.

No matter the particular cases for individual banks, tomorrow's "funding" should be making headlines about the time US stock markets ring their bells of jubilation.

Also tomorrow, America's central banker, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, will be before congress, making his required testimony before the House Finance Committee. Since the chairman's stuttering mouthfuls usually carry significant weight for the financial markets, he might make some news, though probably not, being the conscientious type who only prefers to move markets the old fashioned way, by getting the printing presses rolling full boar in the basement at the Fed.

Thursday and Friday feature a full meeting of EU ministers, with the $2 Trillion "firewall" topping the agenda.

Now, to the casual observer, these events may not evoke much excitement, but financial market players will be glued to their tubes, pads or whatever electronic means they have of staying abreast of developments and there just may be some fireworks. Of course, there may not, as these bulwarks of capitalism are about as open-minded and free-speaking as corpses in straightjackets.

On the other hand, any kind of adventurous talk or under-over funding take-up could move markets substantially, which is just what some traders would like to experience, rather than the Chinese water torture of the past seven or so sessions.

Meanwhile, what equity traders hate to admit, is that silver has been outperforming just about every other asset class in the known universe, up 30% on the year and breaking through resistance today on a powerful move forward.

In an interview with King World News, chartist Dan Norcini notes that silver has breached resistance at $35.50 and broken above the 50-day moving average. Today's 4% move higher was largely due to shorts having to cover their positions. Norcini says shorts are panicked and the next resistance level is around $40/ounce.

In the below video, Jon Najarian of Options Monster explains how the big players are looking for a breakout in silver. Enjoy.

Dow 13,005.27, +23.76 (0.18%)
NASDAQ 2,986.76, +20.60 (0.69%)
S&P 500 1,372.18, +4.59 (0.34%)
NYSE Composite 8,171.84, +28.29 (0.35%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,755,641,125
NYSE Volume 3,487,070,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2805-2796
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 253-21
WTI crude oil: 106.55, -2.05
Gold: 1,788.40, +13.50
Silver: 37.14, +1.62

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dow 13,000. Fail. G20 Wants $2 Trillion Firewall; 1% Tip from a One-Percenter

Today was another in a seemingly-endless series of ridiculously small gains or losses for stocks, but, if one looked at the major indices early in the day, one would have thought any kind of gain or even getting close to unchanged was out of the question.

Stocks sold off right at the open, but suddenly, miraculously, once the Dow bottomed out with a 100-point loss, the entire market reversed and headed higher.

Some of the commentary surrounding the market reversal seem to suggest that it was due to the NAR's release at 10:00 am ET of pending home sales, which witnessed a 2% gain in January. Such commentary should be immediately dismissed as pure rubbish, for a number of reasons, the first being that real estate is such a small sliver of the US economy - and generally divorced from stocks - that the number doesn't move the Dow 120 points. Also, the January gain comes on the back of a 1.9% decline in December, and the warm weather this winter likely threw off all of the NAR's seasonable adjustments.

Probably the utmost reason that the theory concerning the move upward for the Dow being caused by pending home sales should be disregarded is that the bottom and subsequent move higher occurred 15 minutes before the NAR news. The Dow was already nearly 40 points off the bottom by 10:00 am.

No, the turnaround was more than likely the result of pump-priming by a gang of primary dealers, who, in a lightly-traded market, as this is, have more than enough firepower to move stocks in any direction they please, and the current pleasure is being positive, as it almost always is. The idea that the the major brokerages and big banks would like to engender more participation from individual investors, who have lost faith in Wall Street since the financial crash of '08 and haven't returned, is real, and the best way to get investors back in the mood - in the small minds of big bankers - is to manufacture rallies, such as the current one, which is about a 25% move since the start of October.

The trouble for the bankers is multitudinous. Nobody believes in their ways of doing business; there isn't enough disposable income in most households to really consider stocks as investments; there are too many headwinds, like Greece, the rest of Europe, Iran, high gas prices, lingering unemployment and more, and; the market sure looks toppy at this juncture.

Lastly, volumes for the better part of the last two months have been nothing but pathetic. Today was more of the same, so trying to entice individual investors back in is akin to finding volunteers for cliff diving. It looks dangerous, and nobody wants to go first.

To get an idea of how stalled out this market has become, consider that on Friday, February 17, the Dow closed at 12949.87 and today at 12,981.51. That's a move of less than 32 points in five days, and the repeating pattern of being down in the morning only to rally at some unknown time - though also in the A.M. - isn't exactly an inspiring feature.

So, after spending most of the day above the 13,000 mark on the Dow, the cheerleaders at CNBC will have to root again tomorrow, for the seventh day in a row.

Over the weekend, financial representatives of the G20 nations met in Mexico and came up with the notion that Europe needs to erect a $2 trillion financial "firewall" to keep its contagion from spreading. That's all they seem to know how to do, these top-level bureaucrats, spend money to keep Europe's debt conflagration from inflicting collateral damage. Next time you hear the word "firewall" your response should be "stupid," because a firewall, by definition, is purposely set up to keep everything enclosed. In other words, anything inside the firewall will burn to a crisp. The term, and the idea are almost as revolting and ignorant as the much-bantered-about term, "ring-fence."

Now that the globalist elitists have their global economy and things aren't going so well, they want to revert to feudalism. Well, at least, via their ancestry, it's something they actually understand.

And, finally here's a story about a one-percenter, a rich banker, leaving a waitress a - you guessed it - a one percent tip. Talk about callous.

Dow 12,981.51, -1.44 (0.01%)
NASDAQ 2,966.16, +2.41 (0.08%)
S&P 500 1,367.59, +1.85 (0.14%)
NYSE Composite 8,143.56, -8.41 (0.10%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,761,845,125
NYSE Volume 3,492,574,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2682-2894
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 230-25
WTI crude oil: 108.56, -1.21
Gold: 1,774.90, -1.50
Silver: 35.52, +0.19

Friday, February 24, 2012

Playing the Market, Twitter-Mob Style; Mogambo Guru Returns

It was certainly an exciting - if uneventful (depending on perspective) - end to the week, as the pumpers on CNBC breathlessly kept viewers in a strange state of animated suspense and anticipation over whether the Dow would actually close above the "psychologically important" (only to them) 13,000 level and the wrangling over details of the latest Greek bailout continued apace across the pond.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to 13,000 - or rather on the way down away from it - this morning, shortly after 10:00 am ET.

With the Dow at what would become the highs of the day, a sudden about-face took place, sending the index screaming for mercy in a 37-point drop over a roughly ten minute span.

Moves like this are not uncommon in the world of fast-paced HTF algos (a subject which has been noted here all too often in the past), but today's event might have had a bit of a different skew. Yesterday afternoon, a group of individuals (no names, please) decided to have a bit of fun, or mischief, possibly at the expense of the well-heeled crowd that convenes on Wall Street regularly.

A plan was concocted to see if a bunch of unrelated, inconspicuous internet users could have an effect on the HTF algos, which, as we know, track headlines from the likes of Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, but also follow trends on social websites like Facebook and Twitter.

The idea was that everyone would Tweet, at precisely 10:03 am, "Greece defaults" and see if the dumb algos would fall for the bait. The tweets went out, not all at the same time, and not uniform by any means, though the 10:03 time-stamp was extended, with various mentions of Greece defaulting flowing into the Twitter-verse in earnest for about twenty minutes.

Whether the tweeters actually managed to trip up the HFT traders and their zipity-do-dah algorithms is now and will likely forever be a matter of speculation, but if there were an actual cause and effect, it brings some interesting - and scary - possibilities to the table.

Suppose such crowd-sourced media were actually effective in moving the algos, thus affecting the price of an entire index? What then would be the effect on an individual stock? Were a group of people intent of making some money with this trick, it might be easier than anyone imagines, somewhat akin to elevator whisper campaigns designed to take down candidates in local elections or the old pump-and-dump strategies that were so effective in the early dotcom days of the internet, circa 1998-2001.

A plan could easily be put together to move a stock a few points in one direction or another, with appropriate bets placed by those "in the know." If truly effective, the profits could be staggering. Truth is, that's probably what has been happening in the US markets and elsewhere for quite some time, but especially theses days, as the market seems less than reluctant to trade on rumors and headlines rather than fundamentals.

Whatever the case, today's experiment via Twitter might raise a few eyebrows and give people some ideas. As for 13,000 on the Dow, the CNBC presenters and those with an emotional tie to the number will just have to wait until next week.

The other major development of the day also took place on the internet, and actually happened on Thursday, when the frightful visage of the Mogambo Guru suddenly reappeared sporting his own blog. The majestic Mogambo Guru (MMG) had been a regular typist and word-twister of financial follies on the Daily Reckoning for a long time, though he had taken an absence from penning the occasional witty and irreverent column (OWAIC).

Now that he's back and regularly submitting his thoughts to the public via a blog there should be little doubt that his hordes of faithful followers (HHOFF) will flock to his work like... ummm, bees to honey, or something like that.

Welcome back, oh great, glorious, hallowed, devious and mischievous Guru! Your absence left a hold in the fabric of time and space, but we're sure you'll be promptly attending to mending it.

Just a few quick notes for the weekend:

Today's volume, which has been horribly anemic on a regular basis anyway, was fairly ghastly today, the lowest in a decade, notes ZeroHedge.

There's a meeting of the G20 in Mexico City over the weekend in which the big fight is supposed to be between the IMF's Christine Lagarde and the finance ministers and representatives of Germany. The IMF wants more dough and the Germans are tiring of spending so much. Besides the main event, the undercard features thousands of police in riot gear protecting the one percenters from rock-hurling Mexican hooligans and potentially, armed drug cartel operatives. One has to admit that setting a meeting of world leaders in a place as dangerous as Mexico City offers a bit of intrigue, to say nothing of its inducement to all kinds of mayhem.

Dow 12,982.95, -1.74 (0.01%)
NASDAQ 2,963.75, +6.77 (0.23%)
S&P 500 1,365.74, +2.28 (0.17%)
NYSE Composite 8,151.96, +15.72 (0.19%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,641,587,000
NYSE Volume 3,367,789,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2827-2792
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 281-11 (Really?)
WTI crude oil: 109.77, +1.94 (pain at the pump)
Gold: 1,776.40, -9.90
Silver: 35.34, -0.22

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Is the Crisis Deepening?; Meg Whitman, Prototypical CEO Failure

Well, the PPT must have gotten up early today, because no sooner did the Dow dip 50 points off the open than it was boosted to a 50 mark to the positive.

Was there a reason, a rationale? Sure. Stocks must go up to bolster the perception that all is well in the good old US of A.

Naturally, once the market was back on a solid we're-going-to-13,000 footing once again, the HFT momo-chasers went to work, keeping the abhorrent, clumsy, no-volume rally going for the remainder of the lackluster session.

With stocks just screaming higher and higher virtually every day, some elements on the general tenor of the stock market rally vis-a-vis the real world economy need to be scrutinized.

Oil continues to rocket higher, up over $108 per barrel in electronic trading late today. The Euro/Dollar trade continues to be the creepiest, most cynical lie to the world. How does the Euro, with most of Europe already in a recession and the rest of it teetering on one, continue to ramp higher against the US dollar? Aren't we supposed to be in better shape than the various countries making up the Eurozone? Apparently not, because the EUR/USD hit another high today, closing above 1.33. It simply makes no sense, except if you have significant positions (like Goldman Sachs does) long the Euro and the stock market.

Last we checked, GDP was still growing at less than 3% in the US, though in Europe, minus signs and fractions of one percent dot the landscape. America still has more than 14 million unemployed people, wages have been stagnant to lower for more than a decade and the real estate market is officially in depression-like throes.

Something is definitely not right, when the Euro is up while most of the continent is in recession, oil is ramping to record levels for this time of year despite all manner of data showing rampant demand destruction, gold and silver are ripping, yet the stock market continues to rise and rise and rise without so much as a 3% pull-back. The Dow Jones Industrials are up a wicked, unbelievable 2339 points since October 1, an incredible gain of 21.95% in less than five months. Yep, the rich are getting richer... again.

Watch retail analyst Howard Davidowitz rip apart the notion of "growth" in the video below:

Hundreds of stores closing from a handful of retailers; the rest, Davidowitz calls "train wrecks."

A couple of lines gleans from Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) newly-minted CEO, Meg Whitman, aptly demonstrate what's wrong with corporate and political America. First, Ms. Whitman, who, after a stint as the CEO of eBay, launched an unsuccessful bid for the governorship of California. Out of luck and out of a job, Meg was pegged to lead HPQ out of the abyss.

Good luck with that, you clueless board members. Whitman is uniquely suited to drive Hewlett Packard even deeper into an already well-dug hole. Her "success" at eBay can more or less be summed up in one line: A trained monkey could have done as well, and probably without alienating as many people, buyers and sellers alike.

Ebay was one of the few dotcom companies that fit the new paradigm of the internet perfectly, allowing small businesses and individuals to buy and sell just about anything under the sun. Ms. Whitman had, in reality, little to do with making the company a household name. It was all about eBay's near-monopolistic position in the online retail space that made the company a success. It would have actually been more of a surprise had she not succeeded. Meg Whitman didn't start the company. She got in when the getting was good.

In any case, here's some of the cliche claptrap that Whitman spewed on her CNBC interview this morning:
  • On the timing of HPQ's turnaround: "Fundamental change... will take some time."
  • On the challenges facing the company: "There are three 'buckets' of challenge: 1) basic execution, 2) each business has it's own unique challenges, 3) there have been changes in our business."
  • On HPQ's structure: "We have to zero-base the bureaucracy..."
  • "We have to save so we can invest and compete more effectively."
  • "We're not where we want to be in China." (Meg should know. Ebay shuttered its China operations under Whitman after years of abject failure and lack of traction.)
  • On when HPQ's metrics will show some change: "We'll know a lot by the end of 2012. Revenue acceleration in 2013."

It's a shame Ms. Whitman's on-the-job training as CEO of a real company didn't include lessons in humility, because the market provided some for her after the company beat (lowered) expectations narrowly this quarter, but was short on revenue and even shorter on guidance. Traders punished HPQ to the tune of a 6.5% decline upon the occasion of the release of its most recent quarter's numbers. That's a pretty impressive drop, considering the company had already lost a two-fifths of its value in just the past year. Meg Whitman is your gal, especially if you ascribe to the Peter Principle.

There isn't a day of reckoning coming. There will be many days of many reckonings over the coming years because the entire global financial and commercial system is being kept afloat on dreams, lies, cronyism and hype.

Dow 12,984.69, +46.02 (0.36%)
NASDAQ 2,956.98, +23.81 (0.81%)
S&P 500 1,363.46, +5.80 (0.43%)
NYSE Composite 8,135.98, +41.60 (0.51%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,723,876,625
NYSE Volume 3,726,037,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4040-1606
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 243-24 (Wowser! Only one new low on the NYSE.)
WTI crude oil: 107.83, +1.55 (up 10% in February)
Gold: 1,786.30, +15.00 (closing in on all-time highs)
Silver: 35.56, +1.30 (about to break out)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Greek Debt Prison; Real Estate's Bogus Stats and Obama's Phantom Recovery

Let's Just Pretend.

That's what Wall Street, the EU and the central bankers of the world want you to do. Pretend.

Pretend there is a way out for Greece. Pretend that the US economy is growing, that the debtsof all nations will eventually be paid off through the magic of "growth," that your future, and that of your kids' will be secure.

None of it is true. The headlines from the likes of Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones only parrot what the elite bankers and corrupt governments feed them. Journalism died during the Bush administration of the 2000s. The rule of law is being killed every day by the likes of the AG settlement, the non-prosecution of anybody involved in the mortgage/robo-signing/foreclosure scams and the constitution has been marginalized by congress and presidential orders.

What makes it even more frightful is that it seems to worsen every day. No statistics can be trusted and the words coming from the mouths of politicians ring hollow and void.

Take just a few of today's news items for instance. President Obama - to great fanfare - proposed new tax rates for businesses in the US. Never mind that they have less chance than Lindsay Lohan giving up drinking of ever being signed into law. Sure, they sound good (if by good you mean that the government is somehow entitled to the ridiculous amount of 28% of you company's net profits), but they will be twisted and broken and flailed about by a congress that knows nothing better than obfuscation, ridicule and deceit.

Then take a look at the January's existing home sales figures released by the NAR. Again, the trumpets blared that real estate is recovering, with the month's sales up 4.2% from December to an unadjusted 4.57 million, annualized (why do they annualize these figures in an age in which numbers can be recorded and crunched in an instant? It's easier to FAKE them that way.). Never mind that distressed properties boosted the number materially or that the rate of deals falling through continues to rise or that mortgage applications fell again this week.

But wait a minute. Last month's number was 4.61 million... Well, that was revised down to 4.38 million. So, that gain in December actually turned out to be a decline. Next month, the NAR can revise the January number down too, so that February shows a gain. It's a con. A shell game. And the American public is the mark.

And then there's the Greek deal, the third bailout for the nation in the past two years. It's not enough that the EU is "loaning" them another $172 billion ($130 billion Euros), but this one comes with various strings attached, such as a special account that requires Greece to pay its creditors before paying its own expenses; a permanent monitoring task force from the European Commission; private investors forced to eat 53.5% of the money they've already loaned (and are not getting back); drastic cuts to pensions, the minimum wage, defense spending, healthcare and public sector jobs; and more.

With these new conditions, Greece, for all intents and purposes, is no longer a sovereign state. Rather, it is a debt-slave, a ward of the European Union. Obviously, centuries of in-breeding among Europe's elite ruling class has taught them well how to subjugate the will of the masses.

But maybe there's hope. Since the signing of the Greek deal on Monday, stocks in Europe have done nothing but decline. There is little faith among professional investors that this arrangement will result in anything more than a temporary reprieve and an ultimate default.

In the US, stocks wandered around for the second straight day, though this time they finally bit the bullet and had to fall. Not by much, but any decline in stocks is a blow to the monied interests and they seem worried about Greece, about the price of gas and about the economy in general. And the volume was again absurdly low, because nobody but the banks, hedge funds and HFTs are playing.

They might even begin to worry that people are sick and tired of being lied to and are beginning to wake up.

Wake up, America. How much longer can these charades continue?

Dow 12,938.67, -27.02 (0.21%)
NASDAQ 2,933.17, -15.40 (0.52%)
S&P 500 1,357.66, -4.55 (0.33%)
NYSE Composite 8,094.39, -21.03 (0.26%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,676,971,875
NYSE Volume 3,608,714,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2032-3589
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 162-24
WTI crude oil: 106.28, +0.03
Gold: 1,771.30, +12.80
Silver: 34.25, -0.18

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dow Runs at 13,000, Relents, as Oil Tops $106/Barrel; Gold, Silver Rocket Higher

On the heels of a three-day weekend and a late-night session of EU finance ministers which apparently (maybe, sort of, kinda) came to a conclusion on funding for the failed state of Greece, the Dow Jones Industrials were poised to exceed 13,000, a number not seen since May of 2008.

While the Eurocrats dithered, wrangled and finally agreed to a very messy agreement to stave off the imminent default of the Republic of Greece, most Americans were sleeping, though the conditions of the Greek people continued to worsen, seemingly by the hour.

Nonetheless, stocks opened with the usual ebullience afforded the opening of a new week of stock profit pursuits and quickly came within a whisker of the magic 13,000 level, before falling quickly backward at 10:00 am, as the Euro plunged.

Undiscouraged, the monkey algos, which amount for more than 70% of all trades, turned around as the Euro resumed gaining value against the US dollar and the Dow eventually broke through the haloed mark, though just briefly, on three different occasions during the session.

Meanwhile, the price of a barrel of WTI crude oil surpassed $105/barrel and just after 2:30, rang up $106. At that, the market had had enough and the day's rally was quickly over, the Dow - and all of the major averages - falling into the red before recovering slightly into the close for a split finish.

While there is still some guarded optimism over the Greek "deal" struck by the EU ministers, there are more than just a few doubters that the country will ever recover from the depression caused by decades of overspending, cheating on taxes (it's a Greek - and exceedingly a global - way of life) and an overhang of debt that would make even mighty Atlas himself shy from the task of holding aloft the birthplace of democracy.

Stock profiteers aside, there's ample reason to believe that Greece's ongoing tragedy will help pull down the rest of the Eurozone, and with it the global economy, fiat money and eventually, governments. The major economies of the world are playing with fire, printing without remorse nor sufficient moral appreciation of what the aftermath of global inflation will bring.

Today's skittish market turnaround may have been the first chapter in what could be "the great unraveling." Too little has been done - here in the US, in Europe, China and Japan - to address the underlying issues of the great recession, with the economists of the world having come up with no answer other than to simply pile more debt on top of the already enormous mountain of unpayable debts built up during the go-go 90s and moribund 2000s.

If there's any wonder why gold and silver took off today like they were launched out of cannons, the chart below may explain why the now-12-year bull run of the precious metals may just be getting started.

Dow 13,000 may be a pretty number and cause for celebration in some board rooms and on certain stock desks, but it has little to do with the overall health of the economy of any nation. Relentless printing of money, backed by "full faith and credit" has become the norm and we will all be the poorer for it in time and the price of oil is merely the tip of the spear that will pierce all the misconceptions and hopeful tones emanating from Wall Street, the City of London, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Dow 12,965.69, +15.82 (0.12%)
NASDAQ 2,948.57, -3.21 (0.11%)
S&P 500 1,362.21, +0.98 (0.07%)
NYSE Composite 8,115.42, +0.91 (0.01%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,815,109,000
NYSE Volume 3,766,193,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2490-3168
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 260-16 (ridiculous)
WTI crude oil: 105.84, +2.60
Gold: 1,758.50, +32.60
Silver: 34.43, +1.21

Friday, February 17, 2012

Freaky Friday: $6 Trillion In Fake Bonds, Euro-Greek Bond Swap; March 23rd Looking Grim

For a Friday, the news flow certainly was heavy.

The morning began with a report out of Italy, that $6 trillion worth of allegedly "fake" US Treasury bonds were seized by Italian police and the US Secret Service along with eight men involved in the counterfeiting and money laundering scam. Authorities said that the individuals arrested were planning to purchase plutonium from Nigeria, a story that has a familiar ring, last used as part of the pretense for going to war with Iraq after 9/11.

This story has all the markings of either a false flag event or wild conspiracy. Details are sketchy, though the assembled mainstream news media has already accepted the idea that the bonds are fakes. Don't expect to hear or see much more about this after today, except from bloggers and investigators outside the mainstream.

The European Central Bank (ECB) swapped its Greek bonds for new ones to ensure it isn’t forced to take losses in a debt restructuring. This story also greeted the morning in New York, without much fanfare, except for the press mimicking the officials at the ECB that Greece is moving closer to a resolution of its debt issues before the fateful date of March 20 arrives.

ZeroHedge has a pretty good take on the implications and possible illegalities of the move, which will apparently trigger the collective action clauses (CAC) and also Credit Default Swaps, as it would be a default event. Ooopsie. Could be a cascade coming.

Related, but unconfirmed, is a report that some banks already have documents detailing a March 23 default by Greece in which Greek banks will be closed, accounts frozen and Euro-denominated currency will become worthless in the land of Plato and Aristotle.

March 23 happens to be a Friday, which makes sense, since the report says the major credit agencies will declare Greece in default, and late Friday afternoons, after US markets have closed, seems to be the preferred time for any nasty news from the credit raters.

Late in the day, our normally-inept congress managed to PURPOSELY UNDERFUND THE SOCIAL SECURITY TRUST FUND by passing a bill to extend the roughly-30% cut to employees for the rest of the year and keep unemployment benefits flowing to the millions of Americans who just can't seem to find a good job.

Amid all of this, the stock market looked like a side show, with stocks limping along to yet another positive close - except for the NASDAQ, mostly because Apple finished down 0.09 - on horrifyingly-low volume.

It's tough to make this stuff up, but somebody must be, because financial markets are acting as if they're from another dimension or distant galaxy. The only reasonable correlation that can be assumed these days is that if the Euro is up, so will be US stocks. Oh, and any mention of Iran or the Strait of Hormuz is good for at least another 40-cent move higher in the price of crude, which has retail gasoline now priced at US record levels for February.

Hey, it's a three-day weekend. We can worry about Greece on Tuesday. But, don't drive too much. Could just wreck your budget.

Dow 12,950.10, +46.02 (0.36%)
NASDAQ 2,951.78, -8.07 (0.27%)
S&P 500 1,361.23, +3.19 (0.23%)
NYSE Composite 8,114.51, +22.32 (0.28%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,972,077,750
NYSE Volume 3,675,412,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3082-2535
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 303-12 (0 new lows on NYSE. WOW!)
WTI crude oil: 103.24, +0.93
Gold: 1,725.90, -2.50
Silver: 33.22, -0.15

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stocks Scream Higher on Positive Economic Data

This one will practically write itself.

Stocks were buoyed today by falling initial unemployment claims (down to 348,000 after 361,000 last week), rising housing starts (699K) and building permits (676K), and a very tame PPI number of 0.01. The Phialdelphia Fed's survey of regional economic activity was also up, to 10.2 in February from 7.3 in January.

All of this good news - and the absence of anything untoward from Europe - sent stocks on a day long rally that just kept rising steadily throughout the session. Naturally, the Euro was higher, as that correlation remains wholly intact.

Whether or not one agrees with the numbers, Wall Street made sure to boost stocks one day before options expiry, which may have been the plan all along, since there aren't enough individual investors or opinions other than those espoused by the powers that be, to matter.

Never mind what I said yesterday about the possibility of a nasty correction and repeat after me: "the market must go higher."

The original JP Morgan would be flummoxed. Once, when hounded by rabid reporters asking what the market would do, Morgan casually tossed out an all-time classic. "The market will fluctuate," he said.

We sure could use a dose of Mr. Morgan's common sense, or, at least a few of the silver dollars named after him.

Keep in mind that this is an election year, so that whatever outcome has already been determined, the markets will provide the proper narrative. It appears that Barack Obama is their guy, so it should surprise nobody if unemployment is at 7.3% come November 2nd and the GDP is growing at 3 1/2 - 4%, no matter how convoluted the exercise to get to those numbers.

Which leads to another great quote: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." The phrase was popularized by Mark Twain, who attributed it to Benjamin Disraeli, though the quote never appears in any of Disraeli's published works.

Could Twain have made it up himself? After all, his real name was Samuel Clemens.

And, by the way, since the US seems intent on making Iran a whipping boy, $4/gallon gas is coming, sooner, not later, just in time to eat up the payroll tax cut extension which the congress agreed to this morning and will likely pass on Friday. No free lunch, kiddies.

Dow 12,904.08, +123.13 (0.96%)
NASDAQ 2,959.85, +44.02 (1.51%)
S&P 500 1,358.04, +14.81 (1.10%)
NYSE Composite 8,092.61, +93.96 (1.17%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,890,777,750
NYSE Volume 4,022,471,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4275-1405
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 230-16
WTI crude oil: 102.31, +0.51
Gold: 1,728.40, +0.30
Silver: 33.37, -0.04

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Numbers Racket: Greece, Euro, Apple, Transports and 100 Dow Points

Let's get real here.

Raise your hand if you think Greece is NOT going to default.

Very well. Maybe the rest of you with hands on hips or in pockets will appreciate the news out of Europe this morning, which somehow managed to pump futures toward a strong positive opening.

What's that? Even though Dow futures were up more than 80 points before former Treasury Secretary Hank (martial law) Paulson appeared on CNBC for the usual softball interview and were up 47 points just seconds before the open, the Dow only managed an initial gain of... hmmmm, less than 20 points.

Eurozone's 17 nations' (non) growth rate for the 4th quarter of 2011 was -0.3, the only countries showing gains in GDP growth being France and Slovakia.

Five countries in europe are already in recession. No surprise here, as Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Italy have experienced two consecutive quarters of GDP decline. The one country everyone has an eye on is Germany, where output for the quarter fell by 0.2%, because the Germans have been the only country in the region showing any sign of elasticity and ability to weather the financial storms.

However, the rest of the Eurozone is dragging Germany's usually strong industrial sector down with the rest of the continent, a development that could prove disastrous as the EU plods through a troubling 2012.

Stocks took a spanking today in the US after the aforementioned recession news and then the communique out of Brussels from the esteemed EU finance ministers (a Baptist minister, a Catholic priest and an EU finance minister walk into a bar... oh, never mind) reminded the assembled money watchers worldwide that they are experts at procrastination and posturing.

While yesterday's commitment letter from Greek conservative leader Antonis Samaras stated that he would go along with the proposed - and passed by the Greek parliament - austerity measures, the potential future leader of Greece (give him about 6 months before he is bought off and retires, if he even wins the April race for Premier) contained a small caveat, saying he might reconsider, once, of course, the authorities deliver the 130 billion (or maybe it's more like 202 billion) Euros promised by the supra-government of the EU.

What happened today could best be described as controlled demolition. While the Dow was subsumed, hovering from 15 to 35 points in the red, the NASDAQ was wildly positive, though 90% of the gain was due to just one stock, Apple (APPL), which exploded in a number of ways on the day.

First, Apple rocketed to an all-time high of 526.29, but closed the day at the somewhat pedestrian level of 497.67. That's a pretty big round-turn, even for a stock with such a heady valuation. The decline was magnificent, falling 20 points in just the noon hour, and stumbling to a nearly 12-point loss in the remainder of the day. Volume was more than four times the average daily volume (12 million shares) at 53,457,212.

But Apple was just the NASDAQ story. The Dow charted its own path, guided by the Euro-dollar trade. The Euro slumped and finished below the psychotic 131 level, a number which is absolutely meaningless unless you're swapping currencies or considering travel to the doomed continent. But, stocks have followed the Euro-Dollar relationship like clockwork this year. Euro up, US stocks up, with the converse also true. The real value of the ephemeral Euro is all in the mind and to which equally worthless paper currency to which you compare it. If one would be so bold to compare it to some commodity - say, gold - well, a Euro won't buy you a single grain and it's gotten worse throughout its 11+ year life with each turning of the calendar.

So, the Dow set down at the close with its worse loss of 2012, which is not so much a surprise, being that the index (and all the other majors) has overheated in what has been an unusually-warm winter. But the Dow could just not surrender 100 points on the day, despite it being down 125 points at its worst level and down 108 points only one minute prior to the close. Perhaps that number (-100) has meaning to some people, but for the rest of us, -97.33 will just have to do.

What is alarming and scary (like Europe isn't enough of a fear factor) is the action in the Dow Transports, which suffered a two percent decline on the day, easily outstripping the widely-followed indices.(please have a gander at the 1 year chart with the 80% down-spike in November)

Another unpleasant thought concerns the timing of this week's reversal of fortune, just two days prior to options expiry, normally the strongest and upward-tilted week of any month in this Ponzi-like market scheme. Today's volume was also quite strong across all indices.

If stocks aren't making gains just prior to options expiry, then something very wrong is happening behind the scenes. It could be as simple as the market being overbought, or waking up to the awful European reality or the threat of war with Iran which looms larger each passing day.

Then again, it could just be that the low level of market participation has the major traders now drooling over each other's lunches. US stocks have been on a tear since October and the time and sentiment are ripe for a nasty correction.

A clue could come the day the Dow closes with a loss of more than 100 points, though that might prove to be a day too late and many billions of dollars short. Today's near-100-point loss should provide more than enough caution to everyone.

Keep a close eye on gold, and especially, silver, which has underperformed for the past two weeks. Any sustained gains in the precious metals should serve notice that there's something big brewing.

Dow 12,780.95, -97.33 (0.76%)
NASDAQ 2,915.83, -16.00 (0.55%)
S&P 500 1,343.23, -7.27 (0.54%)
NYSE Composite 7,998.65, -30.97 (0.39%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,036,710,750
NYSE Volume 4,045,495,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2267-
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 264-23
WTI crude oil: 101.80, +1.06
Gold: 1,728.10, +10.40
Silver: 33.41, +0.06

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Greek Drama Causes Wild Swings in US Stocks

Leave it to those wild, crazy, dancing Greeks to make a mockery of equity markets.

The information coming out of Athens, then Brussels, then back to Athens caused US stock indices to dive at the open, hit their lows of the day just a half hour before the close and then rally back to the flat line at the close.

It was Greek tragicomedy at its very best.

The day opened to word from Athens that the leader of Greece's conservative party, the outspoken Antonis Samaras, would not sign a letter committing to the austerity package approved by the Greek parliament on Sunday and added that if he were to become Greece's Prime Minister in the April elections, he would seek to re-negotiate the terms of that deal.

With that information in hand, EU finance ministers cancelled a scheduled Wednesday meeting that was intended to finalize the Greek agreement, paving the way for another round of bailout money before the country goes belly up on March 20.

That news sent markets into a choppy downside drift through the bulk of the session, with stocks hitting their lows right around 3:30 pm New York time.

But then, Samaras apparently had a change of heart - conveniently just before the close in New York - saying that he would sign the commitment letter, which sent stocks soaring in the final half hour of trading. The S&P - which still finished in the red bounced 10 points during that time, with the Dow picking up about 80 points and the NASDAQ good for an 18-point burst.

At the end of the day, it all worked out to not much ado about something, though nobody is sure just what's going to occur next in quickly-failing country of Greece.

The Euro dropped below 1.31 to the US dollar during the session, but rallied back above that benchmark late in the day. The Dollar Index, which was positive all day, took a bit of a trim, but still ended positive.

Volume was once more anemic, suggesting that there are only a few humans still playing in the news-and-computer-driven trading markets. In the most general terms, it's simply too risky to venture in and out of the markets no matter how often CNBC reminds us that stocks are up for the year or that corporate profits are solid.

There's an end-game out there, and it is currently hovering over the Parthenon. Ironic as it may be, the nation which brought democracy into the mainstream centuries ago has become the test site for centrally-planned financial suicide.

Dow 12,878.28, +4.24 (0.03%)
NASDAQ 2,931.83, +0.44 (0.02%)
S&P 500 1,350.50, -1.27 (0.09%)
NYSE Composite 8,029.61, -26.62 (0.33%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,879,330,000
NYSE Volume 3,839,528,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2094-3532
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 174-14
WTI crude oil: 100.74, -0.17
Gold: 1,717.70, -7.20
Silver: 33.35, -0.37

Monday, February 13, 2012

Greece Passes Austerity Measures; Obama Budget Goes to Congress; Apple Closes Above 500

Any angst over Greece's passing of their mandatory austerity measures was quickly dispelled by the markets on Monday. Most European bourses finished the day solidly in the green, and US markets followed suit, posting gains which pretty much eviscerated Friday's fear-induced declines.

Even though the austerity in Greece is a death-knell for the country and widespread rioting took place in the capitol of Athens and elsewhere, the globalist elements of the EU, ECB and IMF viewed the vote as a positive referendum on the overall health of the Euro system.

Realistically, Greece will never be able to repay its debts nor will it be able to accommodate all of the cuts to social welfare programs and government employment, but the parliament did what was most expeditious to secure financing from its feudal masters in Germany and keep the game going.

The scheme - from the view of the IMF, ECB and Angela Merkel - seems to be to keep Greece functioning as a neo-slave-state to keep the Euro from collapsing, and, thus far, it seems to be working. A disorderly default by the Greeks might just be the catalyst that destroys whatever unity is left in the EuroZone, an outcome the supra-governmental EU leaders will fight bitterly with truckloads of money (it doesn't matter how much, they'll just print more) and the current kind of kabuki theatre that is disguised as "austerity" for the free-spending Greeks.

Their fear is that Greece's demise could foment similar outcomes in Portugal, Ireland and elsewhere, particularly Spain and Italy, and the continental currency experiment of the Euro would come crashing down upon their collective heads. Problematic as it may be, the monetarists in Brussels are committed to spending whatever it takes to keep the EuroZone intact by relentless money printing and worry about the consequences of widespread poverty, inflation, social unrest and ultimately, a continent-wide depression, later. We wish them luck, mostly because they'll need it, as desperate as the situation has become.

Here in the States, President Obama submitted his 2013 budget to congress, where it was deemed by many (mostly Republicans seeking to unseat the president this fall) as dead on arrival. Obama's 3.8 Trillion monstrosity would reduce military outlays while hiking outlays to infrastructure projects and features higher taxes for the wealthy and a $1.33 trillion deficit, marking the fourth straight year that the federal budget deficit would top one trillion dollars, despite an Obama campaign promise from 2008 to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.

Investors shrugged off the details and went about their task of re-inflating the corporate sector, sending stock prices close to their highest levels of 2012, though volume on the NYSE was the lowest for a non-Holiday session in over a decade.

Oil closed above $100 per barrel, despite US gas consumption being historically weak and Apple (AAPL) closing above 500 per share for the first time in its history. Apple is currently the largest company in the world by market cap, surpassing oil giant ExxonMobil for the top spot.

The major indices followed their now-routine pattern of a gap-up open followed by a mid-morning decline and rally and a flat-lining finish.

Dow 12,874.04, +72.81 (0.57%)
NASDAQ 2,931.39, +27.51 (0.95%)
S&P 500 1,351.77, +9.13 (0.68%)
NYSE Composite 8,056.25, +64.22 (0.80%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,613,612,250
NYSE Volume 3,462,219,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4236-1411
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 262-12 (par-tay!)
WTI crude oil: 100.91, +2.24
Gold: 1,724.90, -0.40
Silver: 33.72, +0.12

Keeping Track of Income, Expenses and Taxes

If you own a small business or especially if you run a one-person enterprise from your home, you are aware that keeping track of where the money is coming from and going to is job #1, but also, that it can be confusing and frustrating to keep track of income, expenses, tax items and other line items.

For most of us, it's a job that gets farmed out to an accountant, employee or bookkeeping firm, of which there are many. Those who prefer the old, tried-and-true method of doing everything by oneself, the internet offers a variety of business bookkeeping that can help make these business chores more enjoyable and less time-consuming.

What's nice about some of these services is - in addition to many of them being free - that all the information is sourced from one's own bank accounts, PayPal accounts or credit card accounts, so there's no manual imputation of individual transactions necessary.

Most of these services offer real-time access to your income and expense data and the best of breed are highly secure and reliable. Once you've input all of your accounts the software (in the cloud, so to speak) does the buklk of the heavy listing and you can sit back and enjoy running your business without having to worry about whether you're spending too much on particular items or getting behind on necessary tax filings.

Some of these services offer worksheets for the individual practitioner's best friend in the tax filing universe: IRS Schedule C, along with other useful forms and information to make your tax filings a snap.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Greece: Deal or No Deal; Booking Profits Today

Finally, after four days of running essentially in place, stocks took a morning downturn and turned it into an all-day event, as US indices suffered their worst loss of 2012.

The catalyst for the day-long decline was none other than Greece, where the deal struck on new austerity measures just yesterday quickly became unglued as the leader of the LAOS party, Giorgios Karatzaferis, said publicly that his 16-seat faction (of Greece's 300-member parliament) would vote against the planned austerity measures this Sunday.

The departure of the small faction caused a major uproar in financial markets, which see the defection as a major blow to the overall refinancing plan put in place by the EU, ECB and IMF (the "troika"). Globalist financial leaders have demanded that the Greek government sign onto the strict austerity measures before taking further steps to ease the crisis in Greece with another round of bailout funds before the deadline for Greece to repay roughly $14 billion occurs on March 20.

Additionally, as many as five cabinet ministers of the newly-formed Greek coalition government have reportedly resigned, signaling even further defections from the nation-destroying plan to keep Greece afloat and the Archbishop of Athens - and leader of the Orthodox church - sent a letter to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos warning of a "social explosion" of poverty, homelessness and rioting should the country continue on its current, destructive path.

Even today, protesters hurled gas bombs and rocks at Greek police in and around the capitol as the nation enters a dangerous, deadly phase of its struggle for sovereignty.

The bottom line is that Greece can and probably should extract itself from the EU and begin - as soon as humanly possible - converting from the disabled Euro currency back to the drachma. The levels of debt are far too onerous for Greece to ever repay without severe costs in lives and livelihoods, and the rising passions of the people may dictate to the government and the gloablist EU statists the correct course for the country, lest it fall to the desires of those clamoring for continued support from the ECB, which thus far have produced only a worsening situation.

A disorderly default by Greece would open the door to similar situations in Portugal and especially Ireland, where debt slavery is becoming a way of life and the citizens of the Emerald Isle find themselves chained to the wishes of their banker overlords. Extrication from the EuroZone and the Euro currency is now being seen as a path toward self-sufficiency and national unity in countries with severe debt issues, including Spain, Italy and Belgium.

Dissolution of the European Union and destruction of the Euro currency caused by domino-like defections is an end-game that the globalists and supra-governing mechanisms of the EU cannot even begin to comprehend and that is why almost all European stock markets - along with US markets - ended the day deep in the red.

The losses today in the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 were a sudden shift from the plodding gains of recent days and may be signaling a shift in global economic expectations. Today was surely a day in which some short-term traders ran for cover, as US Treasury bonds improved, pushing yields lower.

A move lower in oil, gold and silver, as the US dollar rose in value is probably a temporary condition, at least for the metals, but any continued move lower by the Euro - which took a sudden downturn on today's news - would more than likely contribute to a run on equities as the correlation trade between the US dollar, the Euro and risk assets continues to suggest.

With the turn of the new year, the Euro has strengthened, but the destruction today should serve as a warning to investors and speculators that the recent strength is hardly sustainable. Imagining a Euro at 1.20 to the dollar, or even at par, could turn out to be the worst nightmare for many hedge funds and even long-term investors.

US stocks have reached a point of no return - at or near multi-year highs - and the concept of a euro-fomented retreat is not only palpable, but probable at this juncture.

Investors worldwide will be holding their collective breaths this weekend in anticipation of the Sunday vote by Greece's parliament and the response from the European financial authorities. While complete resolution is a distant hope, some clarity should come to markets by Monday, though the projected outcomes are radically different.

Plenty of profits were booked today, and, if the Greek situation continues to devolve into chaos, many more traders and investors will be heading for the sidelines. The markets - indeed, all of Europe and most of the world - are headed toward a climatic conclusion or convulsion in the days and weeks ahead. Should the Greeks decide to reject austerity and the burdens of continued debt, all bets are off.

Dow 12,801.23, -89.23 (0.69%)
NASDAQ 2,903.88, -23.35 (0.80%)
S&P 500 1,342.64, -9.31 (0.69%)
NYSE Composite 7,992.05, -89.20 (1.10%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,786,934,125
NYSE Volume 3,798,787,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1420-4233
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 144-21
WTI crude oil: 98.67, -1.17
Gold: 1,725.30, -15.90
Silver: 33.60, 0.31

Thursday, February 9, 2012

50 State AGs Bend to Will of Banks in Foreclosure Settlement Deal

This is the kind of market that causes financial writers to suffer a severe case of "writers block," the disease that infests the creative part of the mind because there's simply no action in financial markets.

For the fourth day in a row, the major stock indices barely budged, but managed to produce marginal gains, except for the NYSE Composite, which was down slightly. The pattern was virtually the same, with a dip in the morning followed by a quick comeback and a flat to slightly rising curve through the session. One change was that the advance-decline line favored the downside, but guess what? Options expiry is next Friday, so expect the markets to continue climbing though the middle of next week. Bankers gotta eat, ya know?

There was a bit of news from Greece, where the government finally agreed to tougher austerity measures which will reduce wages, headcount, and pensions. The deal cleared the way for talks with the troika to resume, though there are still significant hurdles to be worked out with both the public funding sources and the private ones.

The agreement did little to move US markets, which have been stuck in a regimen of low volume and little movement all week (I mentioned that earlier, I know).

In the other major development of the day, the 50 state Attorneys General announced that their deal with the five major banks involved in the sub-prime, robo-signing mortgage and foreclosure fiasco had been finalized, with the holdouts from California, New York and Delaware finally coming around to see it the banks' way.

The $26 billion deal will provide little relief to underwater homeowners (maybe $1500-2000) and offers a $2000 cash bonus to people who lost their homes to fraudulent foreclosures between 2008-2011. Anyone who paid their mortgage on time, is currently in foreclosure or falls outside those chosen dates: out of luck.

That the deal was yet another windfall for the banks cannot be understated. These banks, through shoddy originations, poor (sometimes none) documentation, fraud and other nefarious tactics, bilked the American public, the US government and mortgage-backed securities bondholders of billions, if not trillions of dollars, worldwide. The paltry sum of $26 billion spread out over a three-year span is nothing more than a rounding error for these white-collar criminals.

If there's outrage to be heard from the general public, don't count on it amounting to much as the US populace has already put up with enough government and business malfeasance the past 12 years that the screamers and shouters are already worn out from 9/11, the security state, illegal wiretaps, TSA gropings, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, etc. The list goes on and on and the American public has virtually resigned itself to the fact that resisting the influence of a broken, fascist federal government is tantamount to economic suicide and hardly worth the effort.

Little by little, the feds have taken away essential liberties granted by the constitution (that "piece of paper" as GW Bush called it) and are in the process of shredding every last ounce of fight and goodness that typified the America of yesteryear. It's depressing, but blatantly obvious that the direction of the country is careening quickly toward an oligarchy in which the well-connected, well-heeled are treated far differently than the poor working slobs. Money is power and the feds know this well. This is the most corrupt government in the world and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a monopoly on the corruptive power as they both drink from the same hose: that of the rich, in deference to the citizenry.

The only potential upside to the plight of the average American is that the federalistas are hopelessly incompetent, so compliance with all their rules, regulations, edicts and taxes can generally be avoided with a little bit of ingenuity and a good dose of umbrage. The downside is that as federal tax revenues decrease (a logical occurrence and already well underway), the bureaucrats and oligarchs will become even more oppressive and brutal. Those of us wishing to stay and fight or hope for the best had better be prepared for another decade of distrust, distortions and dishonesty from the top down, though, as Americans - and others - have been noted for in the past, defiance of officials and mendacious governance can be a powerful elixir for those who have been harmed.

Today's "settlement" with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial (formerly known as GMAC) is nothing more than a cover for the inadequacies of our elected Attorneys General, who found it more expeditious to glad-hand their political donors than follow the rule of law. What a shame. America used to be such a nice place.

Dow 12,890.46, +6.51 (0.05%)
NASDAQ 2,927.23, +11.37 (0.39%)
S&P 500 1,351.95, +1.99 (0.15%)
NYSE Composite 8,081.25, -1.73 (0.02%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,148,275,750
NYSE Volume 4,058,775,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2687-2940
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 289-13 (no comment)
WTI crude oil: 99.84 (really?)
Gold: 1,741.20, +9.90
Silver: 33.92, +0.21

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stocks Remain Sluggishly in Stall Mode Awaiting Greek Workout

Considering that there are nearly 7 billion people on Planet Earth, one wouldn't think that the economic fate of a country as small as Greece (population: 10,787,690 in the 2011 census) would rattle markets as much as the Hellenic nation has, but there's much more to the equation than just Greece and its populace.

If Greece is unable to come to terms with private and public financiers, and have their people agree to even more stringent austerity measures, there's the very real chance that Greece would formally default on its debt and thus be driven from the EuroZone. Ancillary to that argument is the suspicion that other derelict nations which use the Euro as their primary currency - countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Hungary - might also fall under the sway of separation from the Euro currency, a chain of events that would surely bring financial markets and whole economies to a state of panic and confusion.

So, while the unity party in Greece and Premier Lucas Papademos ponder their next moves, the world slowly turns.

Stocks were little changed for the third straight session in New York, treading water in a narrow trading range on a paucity of volume. However, if anything has been learned since the near-death experience of 2008, maybe the merry marketeers have discovered that slow is good.

Stocks have advanced at a snail's pace this week, with the Dow adding 19 points and change over the three days. Despite the angst over the situation in Europe, some are still finding equities worth buying and, yes, holding.

Should Greece formally default, it should not be the end of the world for US investors in particular. There's been plenty of time to decouple from Europe, though the effect of a cascading currency crisis would, almost certainly, have a deleterious aftermath.

On the opposite side of the equation is the hope-against-hope that the Greeks will accept austerity, private bondholders will take a 50-70% haircut and the troika will also manage to find a way to sweep the unpaid debts under the rug of international finance.

Since the ECB, IMF and our own Federal Reserve can just flip the money switch at will, there's little doubt that whatever the circumstances, and however dire the conditions for the people of Greece, the economic Ponzi scheme will continue without as much as a loud belch from the bowls of central bank vaults.

As it was in 2008 in America, little will change, although the though of visiting the home of the Acropolis and the Parthenon with American money at an exchange rate measured in cheap drachmas instead of overvalued Euros is rather appealing.

Dow 12,883.95, +5.75 (0.04%)
NASDAQ 2,915.86, +11.78 (0.41%)
S&P 500 1,349.96, +2.91 (0.22%)
NYSE Composite 8,083.47, +13.76 (0.17%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,952,598,125
NYSE Volume 4,050,664,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3218-2394
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 279-11
WTI crude oil: 98.71, +0.30
Gold: 1,731.30, -17.10
Silver: 33.70, -0.49

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Light Volume, Low Volatility: Signs of Stagnation?

Since the dramatic rise to fresh multi-year highs this past Friday, the first tow days of this week have been nothing more than a major snooze-fest. Whatever the issue, stocks seemed stalled at these lofty levels, perhaps in anticipation of some new developments in the ongoing struggle to keep Greece functioning or possibly due to angst over the conditions in Iran, Syria, Egypt or some other place that seems ripe to explode.

The pattern for the last two days has been oddly similar, with stocks lower at the open, then a spike higher around 10:00 am ET, and a flattening out for the remainder of the session. The difference between yesterday and today is that yesterday's action kept the major indices in the red, while today's trade was mostly on the positive side of the ledger.

Tuesday was a little bit like Groundhog Day in that regard, and also due to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke delivering pretty much the same canned remarks to the Senate as he gave to the House last week.

A 24-hour general strike cripple Greece's already-impaired infrastructure so that negotiations on three fronts - dealing with private bondholders, dealing with funds from the troika, and acceptance of harsh austerity measures - were held mostly without much fanfare or publicity.

Greece's unity government (an oxymoron if ever there was one) needs to work out arrangements with each of their two parties of creditors, and with its own people, to secure another round of financing of 130 billion euro ($172 billion) before a scheduled March 20 payment on 14.5 billion euro of maturing debt.

Since it's obvious to everyone that Greece can't manage its own money, much less the bailout funds pumped into it just last Summer, the threat of default and expulsion from the Eurozone continues to weigh on Europe and the rest of the world.

It's a cruel game of chicken and Europe, in particular, is the worst for it.

One proposal that was floated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to force the Greek government to allocate interest payments into an escrow account, so their profligate ways won't threaten future debt payments, much like a teenager with a co-signer on an installment loan. If it wasn't so sadly true, such an attempt to reign in Greece's spendthrift ways might qualify as humor. Unfortunately, the tragedy that is 21st century Greece does not look like it's going to have a happy ending.

Dow 12,878.20, +33.07 (0.26%)
NASDAQ 2,904.08, +2.09 (0.07%)
S&P 500 1,347.05, +2.72 (0.20%)
NYSE Composite 8,069.70, +21.67 (0.27%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,784,894,750
NYSE Volume 3,727,102,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2959-2649
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 249-7 (wow)
WTI crude oil: 98.41, +1.50
Gold: 1,748.40, +23.50
Silver: 34.19, +0.44

Monday, February 6, 2012

As Greece Prepares for Potential Default, Markets Take Pause

The troubled nation of Greece took center stage again today, as talks to reach agreement on restructuring private and public debt reached yet another impasse and discussions between Primier Lucas Papademos and leaders of the recently-formed unity government also could not agree on austerity measures to be imposed in order to receive the next round of bailout money from the trokia - the EU, ECB and IMF.

Today, Papademos asked experts at Athens' finance ministry to compile a detailed analysis of what a Greek default would entail. The immediate response was that a bankruptcy of Greece would make what happened in Argentina more than a decade ago look like "a picnic."

With that backdrop, stocks opened sharply lower and remained in the red for the duration of the session, which marked the lowest volume day of the year. Rather than outright selling, traders seemed content to wait and watch developments in Europe, hoping that a default of Greece can be avoided. The major averages, though all down for the session, finished at or near their highs of the day.

Stocks are still up for the year. Today's pullback, like many before it, was minor and actually created more opportunities for day-traders than anyone else.

Dow 12,845.13, -17.10 (0.13%)
NASDAQ 2,901.99, -3.67 (0.13%)
S&P 500 1,344.33, -0.57 (0.04%)
NYSE Composite 8,041.85, -18.58 (0.23%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,648,986,500
NYSE Volume 3,310,194,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2293-3331
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 211-9
WTI crude oil: 96.91, -0.93
Gold: 1,724.90, -15.40
Silver: 33.71, -0.04

Friday, February 3, 2012

Stocks Rocket Higher on January Employment Data

What a week for stocks!

Following Friday's 8:30 am ET release of January's non-farm payroll data - which showed a net gain of 257,000 jobs and the "official" unemployment rate dropping to 8.3% - stocks took off at the open and never looked back, with the major indices closing at or near 3 1/2-year highs. In fact, the NASDAQ closed at an 11-year high, dating back to the collapsing side of the dotcom bust.

While the Wall Street crowd saw reason to celebrate the headline number, drilling down into the data revealed some troubling, ongoing trends, not the least of which was the continuous and sharp decline in the labor force participation rate, otherwise known as the number of people in the labor market. That number, which has been falling since 2000, is now at a 30-year low. The federal government may want its citizens to believe labor conditions are improving, but the truth is that the number of people in America who actually work for a living has been shrinking for the last 11 years.

Meanwhile, out in the blogosphere (where the heck is Keith Olbermann, anyhow?) the big push up in employment and down in the unemployment number, along with growing distrust of all government-manufactured data, was cause for much debate and rancor. The best commentary and focus was provided by Zero Hedge, which is usually in the lead when it comes to dissecting government data designed to offer "hope and change."

Here are the best stories on what appears to be well-manufactured (read: total BS) non-farm payroll number:

Record 1.2 Million People Fall Out Of Labor Force In One Month, Labor Force Participation Rate Tumbles To Fresh 30 Year Low

Nonfarm Payroll Surge... On Gain From "Low Wage Jobs", Delay In Courier, Messenger Job Drop

Implied Unemployment Rate Rises To 11.5%, Spread To Propaganda Number Surges To 30 Year High

Final Nail In Today's NFP Tragicomedy: Record Surge In Part-Time Workers

and finally...
TrimTabs Explains Why Today's "Very, Very Suspicious" NFP Number Is Really Down 2.9 Million In Past 2 Months

And, unrelated, but still interesting, is this article about states considering alternatives to the US Dollar.

But, possibly the most underreported story of the day came out of New York, where Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against some of the biggest banks, and MERS,, alleging mortgage and foreclosure fraud.

So, stock jockeys are having their way, but, as expressed here yesterday, equities are certainly getting pricey, confirmed by today's move into even pricier territory.

It's only money, as they say, and you can't take it with you, though you can leave your debts behind.

Here's a good Super Bowl prediction. Enjoy the game.

Dow 12,862.23, +156.82 (1.23%)
NASDAQ 2,905.66, +45.98 (1.61%)
S&P 500 1,344.90, +19.36 (1.46%)
NYSE Composite 8,060.43, +115.00 (1.45%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,151,960,000
NYSE Volume 4,580,415,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4464-1168
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 561-19
WTI crude oil: 97.84, +1.48
Gold: 1,740.30, -19.00
Silver: 33.75, -0.43

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dead Market, Catalyst Needed

Editor's Note: apologies for the tardiness of this post (thanks again, Time Warner). Fortunately, there was very little from Wall Street upon which to report.

This is going to be brief.

Stocks hugged the flat line in the aftermath of Wednesday's start of the month failed rally. This general lackluster tone of trading has permeated the US markets for the past few weeks and shows no sign of abating soon, perhaps having something to do with the Fed's Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP, three years running) or the fact that congress can't seem to even try to do anything about the moribund economic conditions.

If these conditions persist, with stocks at or near recent and historic highs, a pullback or correction of between 5-15% should ensue in short order. The first clue will come from tomorrow's non-farm payroll data, fast on the heels of today's initial unemployment claims of 367,000 and the Challenger Job Cuts data which printed at +38.9% (not good).

The volatility index (^VIX) fall below 18 today, so either stocks are going to remain largely range-bound or volatility will spike on some unseen or forgotten problems. One thing upon which there is wide consensus: stocks are getting a little pricey.

Oh, yeah, gold and silver continue to rock. And oil keeps coming down. Bonus!

Dow 12,705.41, -11.05 (0.09%)
NASDAQ 2,859.68, +11.41 (0.40%)
S&P 500 1,325.54, +1.45 (0.11%)
NYSE Composite 7,945.43, +13.98 (0.18%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,921,179,875
NYSE Volume 4,120,919,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3267-2290
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 371-24 (still extreme)
WTI crude oil: 96.36, -1.25
Gold: 1,759.30, +9.80
Silver: 34.18, +0.37

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Opens with Expected Rally, but the Sizzle Fizzles


Nothing like another gap up at the open and a fizzled rally on the first day of the month.

With all the players flush with cash following the best January since 1997 (shows how horrible the market has been over the past 15 years), there had to be someplace to put all that money to work. Bingo! Let's buy some stocks!

But, let's not get carried away, like last month, when the gains on the first trading day of the month (January 3) was about 2/5ths of the gains for the entire month and after options expiration on Friday, January 20, stocks stalled, ending the month three points lower from that date on the S&P and 87 points lower on the Dow.

The possible excuses catalysts for the meteoric rise at the open and through the early afternoon were various, but hardly worth the triple-digit gains on the Dow (up 151 points at the peak), including the excitement over the imminent IPO of Facebook, the ADP Employment Change (showing 170,000 new private sector jobs in January, below consensus), the 54.1 read on the ISM index (also below expectations) or the "any day now" word from Europe on the Greek debt deal.

No, it was just those crazy Wall Street guys with cash on hand and time to waste that led to the "giddy-up" on the first day of February. Perhaps April Fool's Day was bumped up a couple of months.

What killed the rally was day-trading, as usual, as the smartest guys got the heck out of the way, before American Airlines (AMR) announced that it would lay off 13,000 workers, their pension plans to be likely administered by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), otherwise known as the federal government, AKA, me, you and the rest of working Americans, something that was discussed on this very blog about six years ago.

Yep, this was a swell rally, even though it only lasted about four hours. Prepare for tomorrow's gap down at the open and Friday's slaughter when non-farm payrolls reveal that the birth-death model accounted for about 300,000 phantom jobs created in 2011.

And the president, now known as the landlord-in-chief, announced a broad plan to save the hundreds of thousands of people with underwater mortgages. Too bad Mr. Obama didn't disclose to the cheering throng in Falls Church that his plan has exactly zero chance of passing through congress because it requires the banks to pony up some money to fund these write-downs. The program to rent out already foreclosed-upon homes will move forward, however, bringing the slums directly to a neighborhood near you.

(Personally, I'm still waiting for car dealerships to give away new cars as long as the buyer signs an oath to only buy gas from ExxonMobil. I want a Veloster, or, something like that.)

Happy days!

Dow 12,716.31, +83.40 (0.66%)
NASDAQ 2,848.27, +34.43 (1.22%)
S&P 500 1,324.08, +11.67 (0.89%)
NYSE Composite 7,940.29, +101.81 (1.30%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,046,891,250
NYSE Volume 4,380,622,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4505-1144
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 441-21 (now, that's extreme! Time to sell.)
WTI crude oil: 97.61, -0.87
Gold: 1,749.50, +9.10
Silver: 33.81, +0.55