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

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