Monday, March 5, 2012

Troubling Pattern Continues on Mixed Data

For some reason, stocks continue to take on the same daily trading pattern that has persisted for roughly four weeks now. All of the major indices will start sharply to the downside, only to gather momentum throughout the session.

How stocks go up, after being down early, is a matter for some conjecture. It could be simply a function of the HFT computers which account for 70% off all trading action, it could be an algo designed to take profits early in the day and reinvest later, or it could be something sinister, like market manipulation via the PPT (Plunge Protection Team), which, despite scary market conditions and a shaky economy, still wants to give the impression that the US is in the midst of a recovery.

Whatever the case, it's disturbing to see the same or similar patterns, day in and day out, but conclusions cannot be drawn on patterns alone. Suffice it to say that it's out there for everyone to see - like a zombie market rising from the dead - and until there's a positive catalyst or the wheels fall completely off this liquidity-fueled rally (now into its sixth month without even a five percent pullback), there's little anybody can do about it except confirm its existence.

There were plenty of reasons to sell off today, as China lowered its 2012 GDP estimate from 8% to 7.5% (we should be so fortunate). That half percent may be insignificant, though it is largely understandable, as global growth has pretty much stalled for the past two years and China has been the major exporter during that time. As the People's Republic turns its attention more to the domestic side of things, it should be a signal that the export boom that was largely fed by the US and Europe has come to an end.

European PMI fell to 49.3 in February from 50.4 in January, another sign that Europe is careening toward a recession, and that certainly cannot be good news for the US, either. Besides the absurdity of their dragged-out debt crisis, high prices for fuel and food, and the necessity for structural reform, Europe continues to appear as the proverbial straw that will break the back of the global economic camel. All bourses in Europe finished in the red on the day.

Here in the US, the ISM Services Index showed some resilience, gaining to 57.3 after a print of 56.8 in January, leading some commentators to suggest that strong data in the services sector should result in a lower unemployment rate for February when the BLS issues its non-farm payroll data set on Friday.

One of the more reliable indicators, however continues to display weakness. That would be the Dow Jones Transports, which has not followed the rally of late. After peaking on February 3rd, the index has lost close to 5% since, and any Dow Theory analyst worth his salt will tell you that if the Transports don't confirm a move in the blue chip, there's almost certainly trouble ahead.

And again today, trading volume was absolutely dismal.

Then again, the world didn't end in 2008, but the road back has been long and hard. Food for thought.

Dow 12,962.81, -14.76 (0.11%)
NASDAQ 2,950.48, -25.71 (0.86%)
S&P 500 1,364.33, -5.30 (0.39%)
NYSE Composite 8,091.28, -33.90 (0.42%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,677,286,125
NYSE Volume 3,402,625,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2383-3225
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 132-49 (trending toward convergence)
WTI crude oil: 106.72, +0.02
Gold: 1,703.90, -5.90
Silver: 33.70, -0.83

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