Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stocks End Shortened Week with Lackluster Session

Markets will be closed on Friday in observance of Good Friday, but some traders apparently left the floor early as trading on the major exchanges was sloppy and limited.

There was only one bit of data that may have contributed to the the overall lack of enthusiasm: initial unemployment claims came in 2,000 above of expectations, at 357K, a number that many believe to be a sign of strength in the economy, though an equal number likely believe it to be still too high to demonstrate any lasting recovery.

The sad truth about unemployment figures - as dodgy as they are - is that they're nowhere near levels indicative of full employment, which would be somewhere in the 280-315,000 range, and probably won't be for the foreseeable future because America is creating jobs, albeit of a lower-paying variety and not in any perceptible hurry.

While America slogs along, now 3 1/2 years since the financial crisis, Europe seems to be careening headlong into a protracted recession, with the southernmost countries bordering on depression (count Greece as already in depression). The more bad news that comes from the continent, the harder it will be for the US to retain any semblance of prosperity, notably a word that hasn't been used much since late 2007, though it occasionally pops up in political speeches full of promises that will never be kept.

Activity today on the markets was so sadly disjointed that the NASDAQ managed to be the only index posting a positive return, primarily due to the presence of Apple (AAPL) and other momentum stocks which routinely get an algo boost while the Dow Industrials flounder.

Traders were also likely to be anxious over Friday's non-farm payroll data, which, despite the markets being closed for trading, will still be released at the normal time of 8:30 am EDT. Estimates abound, but most are focused in an area from 150,000 to 200,000, the latter being upped by Goldman Sachs from a previous 175,000 guess.

That perhaps explains why there was so little interest in staking out or adding to positions on the day. Trading resumes Monday and will be highly correlated to the March jobs data.

Monday also marks the beginning of first quarter earnings season, though traditional first up Alcoa (AA) will report on Tuesday, after the close of trading.

Commodities rebounded slightly from the recent drubbing they've taken, but even with today's gains remain well below levels reached earlier in the year.

New highs outpaced new lows, though not decisively, a notable change from the domination of new highs seen over the past six months and a metric to keep an eye on in upcoming days and weeks.

Dow 13,060.14 14.61 (0.11%)
NASDAQ 3,080.50 12.41 (0.40%)
S&P 500 1,398.08 0.88 (0.06%)
NYSE Compos... 8,081.37 25.42 (0.31%)
NASDAQ Volume... 1,525,375,250.00
NYSE Volume 3,277,506,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2478-3073
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 115-91
WTI crude oil: 103.31, +1.84
Gold: 1,630.10, +16.00
Silver: 31.73, +0.68

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