Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Computer-driven Market Continues to Defy Gravity

Following Apple's huge beat on first quarter earnings after yesterday's closing bell, nothing was going to stop the Wall Street horde from bidding up everything tech and everything else, for that matter.

Stocks roared out of the gate, despite the worst durable goods orders in more than three years. The 4.2% decline for March was the worst print since January of 2009.

Even such a negative report on a critical indicator could not stop the flurry of computer-driven orders (now a full 83% of the total market) from diving headlong into equities. Apple (AAPL) opened the trading day more than 50 points to the upside (nearly 9%) and held steady through the remainder of the session, finishing with a gain of 49.72 to close at 610, rendering the sharp losses of the past two weeks to the dustbin of history.

When the FOMC announced no change in interest rate policy - keeping the targeted federal funds rate at 0 to 25 basis points - and little change in the wording of their statement (though slightly more hawkish), there was barely a reaction, as computers programmed to buy don't react to announcements of no change to a failed macro-economic policy.

This is truly not your father's stock market. Algorithmic trading has turned what once was the engine of the financial world into a complete farce where humans have little to do or say and fundamentals do not matter. There is rarely a reasoned reaction to any economic news, only an incessant grind higher. In addition to the computer-driven market dynamics, the advent of weekly options trading has turned US markets into a carnival that would give honest casinos a bad name.

Daily swings of enormous percentages are now the norm, as the algos follow each other into buying patterns that do not recognize downside risk. There is no place for the individual investor as the machines have a huge advantage in both timing and speed of execution, which is why stocks trade more or less on the futures, causing massive gaps to either the upside or downside upon market opening, locking out small limit orders. There is no way to play in such a controlled sandbox, as any gains will already be taken by the HFT machines and their controllers before an order can be properly executed.

That is why volume will continue to remain on the light side. Individual investors stand no chance of making profits and have stayed away, despite the outlandish and often ridiculous gains.

Global thermo-nuclear war could break out and the computers would still trade stocks higher. It's like a bad Terminator movie, in which the puny humans are no match for the pre-programmed droids.

Dow 13,090.72, +89.16 (0.69%)
NASDAQ 3,029.63, +68.03 (2.30%)
S&P 500 1,390.69, +18.72 (1.36%)
NYSE Composite 8,070.84, +82.82 (1.04%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,697,138,250
NYSE Volume 3,981,364,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4223-1395
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 215-42
WTI crude oil: 104.12, +0.57
Gold: 1,642.30, -1.50
Silver: 30.36, -0.39

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