Wednesday, March 21, 2012

US Economy an Express Train to Nowhere

Where to begin...

Let's start with housing, which continues to be a complete bugaboo for the friends of the Fed (FOF), meaning governments at all levels, financial institutions, public sector employees (overpaid, irresponsible), welfare and entitlement recipients and anybody who spends beyond their means.

This morning, the NAR released their almost-fully-discredited monthly report on existing home sales, which, despite marvelous weather across most of the country, fell 0.9% in February as compared to January's figures. The NAR was quick to point out that sales rose 8.8% from a year earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million.

Median prices were nearly flat, at $157,100, just 0.1% higher than February 2011.

It wasn't such a disheartening report, overall, but points to the idea that any uptick in activity is usually short-lived and not sustainable. Prices have remained mired in the mud, and, with interest rates on mortgages rising recently, March may have come in like a Lamb, weather-wise, but it may go out like a hungry lion in terms of real estate.

Then there was the brilliantly-timed commentary by Goldman Sachs chief global equity strategist, Peter Oppenheimer, titled "The Long Good Buy" which postulates that "the prospects for future returns in equities relative to bonds are as good as they've been in a generation."

Not to throw much cold water (a bathtub of ice might be more appropriate) on this particular bit of financial wisdom, but Mr. Oppenheimer and his buddies at the giant squid must think the muppets are prime for a fleecing. Stocks have not been at these current levels for more than 3 1/2 years, the major indices have pretty much doubled since the bottom of March '09 and he thinks NOW, today is a good time to buy stocks?

Not to be too pushy or overburdened with facts, but isn't the oldest bit of market timing knowledge to buy low, sell high? Oppenheimer seems to want to stand that time-worn adage on its head, which, considering the extent to which Goldman Sachs will go to defraud the public, the government and even its own clients, is about par for the course. (A video, assessing the relative value of Mr. Oppenheimer's call appears at the end of this post.)

As far as stocks are concerned, they are currently stalled out at high levels and while they floated along in bifurcated fashion through most of today's session, there was some significant selling pressure at the close. It probably means nothing, but if you think a quick selloff in stocks at the end of the day is a sure sign to buy more gold and silver, nobody around these parts is going to do anything to dissuade you from that line of thinking.

As usual, volume was unseen and at levels indicating a lack of interest, sponsorship or near-panic, but we've been over that bridge too many times already. Let it just be said that there are many, many, many fewer individual investors playing stocks than there were five years ago. Some went broke, some profited but are scared to death of the markets, others are merely awaiting a return to normalcy, something that isn't likely to occur until there's a crash, a credit "event", a war or something very ugly to shake the stranglehold of the banksters and politicians to their core.

Doug Casey offers three variations on the definition of a depression, plus some valuable insights in an interview, titled Doug Casey on the Illusion of a Recovery. It's an intelligent read. (Hint: Doug likes gold)

Dow 13,124.62, -45.57 (0.35%)
NASDAQ 3,075.32, +1.17 (0.04%)
S&P 500 1,402.89, -2.63 (0.19%)
NYSE Composite 8,219.33, -21.95 (0.27%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,551,352,875
NYSE Volume 3,534,241,000
Combined BYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2776-2764
Combined BYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 174-32
WTI crude oil: 107.27, +1.20
Gold: 1,650.30, +3.30
Silver: 32.23, +0.39

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