Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stocks Retreat on Employment Fears

Is it possible? Could the programmed trading bots actually be learning? What happens when the computers become self-aware?

Stocks stumbled out of the gate (deft Kentucky Derby reference) at the opening bell and today there was no turning back, as the major indices suffered telling losses, hitting resistance near 3 1/2 - 4-year highs.

More sluggish data and trepidation over Friday's non-farm payroll number had investors (and machines) taking profits and looking for places to hide.

First quarter productivity was lower by 0.5%, though expectations were for a larger decline of -0.8%. The missing and/or exceeding of poor expectations has become something of a sport on Wall Street, with the bullish head-cases believing that anything better than even lousy expectations is a good thing. It's not. Even the burliest New Jersey fixed income book trader should be aware of that.

Unit labor costs rose 2% in the quarter, a stick in the eye of the 1-percenters.

ISM Services was where the big miss occurred, however, breaking down to 53.5 for April on expectations of 55.5 after booking 56.0 in March. After the Poor PMI data earlier in the week and the anomalous ISM manufacturing number that showed modest positive spin, a breakdown in the services sector would be a death knell for the "recovery at all costs" addicts, since service has become mainstream to the US economy.

Meanwhile, it's been eerily quiet on the continent, as Europe slinks into recession. Some economist with a sense of sick humor actually penned an article pointing out how conditions were improving in Greece, of all places, where 80% of businesses in the Athens business district have closed their doors in the past two years and tax receipts are easily outweighed by bribes. The article was so obtuse and fundamentally flawed, it may have been scrubbed from the internet.

The best news of the day was crude oil dropping by $2.68 a barrel, it's biggest one-day decline in over a month, and long overdue, though all commodities were lower, especially gold and silver, a sign of redemption amidst what may be the beginning of a scramble for cash.

Everything hinges on Friday's job number: Obama's re-election bid, general confidence in the economy, and more. Many sleazy banker types around Wall Street are silently praying for a poor number, so that the Fed will continue it Zero Interest Rate policy and maybe drop another round of QE on their best buddies.

My, oh, my, these bankers are a sly lot. Not.

Dow 13,206.59, -61.98 (0.47%)
NASDAQ 3,024.30, -35.55 (1.16%)
S&P 500 1,391.57, -10.74 (0.77%)
NYSE Composite 8,049.74, -74.59 (0.92%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,824,468,000
NYSE Volume 3,966,676,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1566-4050
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 202-104
WTI crude oil: 102.54, -2.68
Gold: 1,634.80, -19.20
Silver: 30.01, -0.64

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