Friday, August 3, 2012

Markets Soar on NFP Data; End Week with Paltry Gains

Bernanke didn't deliver. Draghi promised much, but fell fell well short in the court of public opinion.

The BLS, however, with its July non-farm payroll report, hit a home run, reporting an increase of 163,000 net new jobs, well beyond average expectations of 85,000, which was good enough for the investariat to send stocks screaming higher as the week closed out with a winning session after four straight losers.

Friday's gains were enough to just about cover the losses for the week, even though volume was the lowest of the five days and the official unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3%. For the week, the Dow Jones Industrials added 20 points and some change, the S&P gained five, while the NASDAQ picked up nine points.

The NYSE Composite index added 27 points, making the week as a whole much ado about nothing in particular.

Noting that the BLS figures are highly suspect and likely politically-contrived, the prior month's figure of an 80,000 gain was revised to 64,000, casting a bit of a pall on the madness of numbers. Investors (using the term lightly) didn't care, sending stocks near three-month highs.

Naturally, most of the gains were made in the opening minutes of trading, closing out profits to all but the privileged few HFTs and insider, bankster types who always seem to be the most profitable in the market.

Once the initial burst of activity had concluded, the market drifted the rest of the session in a very tight range. For instance, the Dow, after 9:45 am EDT, didn't move in either direction by more than 30 points. This is exactly the kind of frightened trading one would assume in a headline-driven, mostly-artificial market.

The week's activity leaves open some very poignant questions. Since last week's two-day burst was derived from hope for relief from the Fed and ECB in the form of more easing of monetary policy or, in the ECB's case, a more robust lending facility with which to bail out failing banks and sovereigns, why then would a positive reading on employment send stocks higher after both the Fed and ECB disappointed?

Apparently, Wall Street gets it either way. Poor economic conditions produce lax monetary policy (and stock gains), but job growth seemingly blunts the argument for more easing, while showing that the economy is on the road to recovery. A win for Wall Street either way, though long-time market observers might view such duplicity with a dollop of disdain.

Chartists may wish to point out the Dow's double top pattern, though still at levels below the year's highs made in the first week of May. The other major indices display similar patterns, with the broadest measures, the NASDAQ and NYSE Composite, showing many trading gaps along the road higher.

It goes without saying that the current market environment is highly reactive and immediate, especially to the upside. Valuations, which, of course, everybody gives the short shrift these days, are fairly rich, especially with corporate profits mostly down from a year ago and many companies missing revenue targets in the second quarter.

Being the end of the week, and payday or some kind of day for the masters of the universe, the pattern has recently been to end with a loud bang, followed by celebrations at favored watering holes or house parties in the Hamptons.

It's the middle of summer and the rich have to play, after all.

Dow 13,096.17, +217.29 (1.69%)
NASDAQ 2,967.90, +58.13 (2.00%)
S&P 500 1,390.99, +25.99 (1.90%)
NYSE Composite 7,935.35, +169.75 (2.19%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,696,452,375
NYSE Volume 3,499,269,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4479-1107
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 286-70
WTI crude oil: 91.40, +4.27
Gold: 1,609.30, +18.60
Silver: 27.80, +0.81

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