Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Amid Flurry of News and Rumor, Stocks End Flat

It's not official until Thursday, but we're pretty much in the holiday season, which means a few things:
1. Trading volumes should be low;
2. Volatility will not manifest (unless there's a war or no deal on the fiscal cliff);
3. A lot of people will be booking profits, i.e., selling;
4. Nobody will take anything with any enormous level of seriousness; people will be more concerned with shopping, eating and visiting relatives and friends.

While those are broad considerations, they more than likely point to a sideways-moving market for the next few weeks. Not to say that there won't be money to be made - there always is - but adroitness and nimble movements will be the key to staying just slightly ahead of the curve.

There's a very good possibility that although the general indices will remain somewhat range-bound, the actual swings could be large from lows to highs. Considering that the Dow is coming off an 1100 point decline, there's room on the upside as well as ample opportunity for the congress and president to blow the whole deal on the fiscal cliff - in fact, the likelihood of them posturing, fuming, arguing and delaying the deal until the last possible moment is paramount.

So, the advice for the remainder of 2012 is as follows: play along, keep tight stops, but look for opportunities as they present themselves. We're going nowhere but sideways to down, with the probability of an upside move of say, 500 Dow points, about zero, while the probability of a huge move in the opposite direction is about 30=40%.

During the recent pullback, every rally was sold into, and every sell-off was partially exacerbated by a little bit of panic - not over losing money, but losing what profits one had already achieved. There were two major downdrafts over the past month: the first, mid-to-late October, and the second, larger move, right after the election and lasting until yesterday.

Anyone paying attention will note that the Dow and the BASDAQ are both still mired below their 200-day moving averages, while the S&P continues to flirt with the up-and-downside of its own 200-day MA. These are difficult positions to maintain, and, in the case of all of the major indices, there is nearly unlimited potential to slide, as no solid support is evident. Today's scary mid-afternoon plunge was fought off by some spirited insider buying. If there's any clue to the action, it's that those heavily-invested in this market are not fully out, nor are they fully exposed. There's still too much on the table needing to be resolved.

Just as yesterday's rally was a one-off event, so too today's nothing finish after a number of major events, including a possible truce in the Israel-Hamas conflict (not gonna happen), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) writing down nine billion of an $11 billion investment and claiming fraud; the biggest insider trading scheme ever being exposed and set to be prosecuted. That was almost enough to tip the averages over the edge, but, for whatever reasons and whatever positions they are defending, the big money inside Wall Street was not about to let it happen. Not certainly just before a holiday and the start of the retail buying spree.

It's going to get more interesting, but not until next week. In the meantime, everybody's on pins and needles, not the kind of seat one would prefer for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Dow 12,788.51, -7.45 (0.06%)
Nasdaq 2,916.68, +0.61 (0.02%)
S&P 500 1,387.81, +0.92 (0.07%)
NYSE Composite 8,086.41, +6.12(0.08%)
NYSE Volume 3,182,159,250
Nasdaq Volume 1,585,562,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2870-2606
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 108-88
WTI crude oil: 86.75, -2.53
Gold: 1,723.60, -10.80
Silver: 32.93, -0.259

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