Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Markets Stall as Fiscal Cliff Negotiations Are a Nullity

Talk about tight trading ranges, the major averages barely budged off the flat line today, and, considering the backdrop of the fiscal cliff non-negotiating stances of the warring parties, it's actually quite remarkable.

The NASDAQ was the most volatile of the majors, trading in negative territory the entire session, trading in a narrow band of 22 points. The S&P, top to bottom, moved an entire nine points and change, finishing ever-so-slightly in the red.

By comparison, the Dow's movement was phenomenal, covering an entire 82 points throughout the day. However, after giving up an initial thrust higher of some 53 points, the Dow's trading range from 11:00 am ET until the close was a mere 46 points. Just in case anybody is keeping tack, the Dow crossed over the unchanged line 27 times.

There was no economic data released, but the president did take to the airwaves in his first one-on-one interview since the election, exclusively on Bloomberg (take THAT CNBC!).

Basically reiterating that he would not budge from his position the the Bush tax breaks for the highest two percent earners (making over $250,000 per annum) must be allowed to expire before he and his democratic counterparts would seriously consider any proposal.

That did not inspire any reaction in either direction from the markets. It could be early onset of "cliff fatigue," since the two sides have engaged mostly in verbal sparring and little else. Wall Streeters may be getting a bit worn out, playing the waiting game for the past four weeks.

Without any movement in negotiations, the investment community will look to a crush of economic data releases beginning with the ADP Employment Change index for November, at 8:15 tomorrow, followed in close order by Q3 productivity revision and unit labor costs, factory orders, ISM services and crude oil inventories.

At the least, the ADP figure will give the non-farm payroll junkies a little to chew on until Friday when the BLS makes its monthly estimate of job growth in the nation.

Between now and then, don't look for a quick resolution to the fiscal cliff issues, as both sides appear to take the fight to the very last minute, if not beyond. Most of the politicians are planning on heading home for the holidays on the 14th of December, but, staying in the nation's capitol to iron out an agreement might be preferable to dealing with angry constituents back home, so the chance that congress might delay their holiday by a week is a distinct possibility.

While there are many voices expressing that the politicians will prevent the economy from going "over the cliff" more and more analysts are predicting that neither side sees any gain from negotiating a settlement and appearing weak in the eyes of constituents, especially from the Republican point of view, which is, has been and likely will be, completely intractable.

Things could get interesting at any time, though it appears more and more likely that the politicians will stall, posture and delay, to the ultimate detriment of everyone.

One can hardly blame the president for sticking to his guns on wanting to raise taxes on the rich. It's a no-brainer and long overdue. Besides, he did win re-election largely on the idea that the rich should pay more. How much more is the most cogent question, though the Republicans continue to appear myopic and standing in defense of their campaign contributors, not the people of America.

If the politicians don't come to agreement, blame will fall squarely on the shoulders of the Republican party, primarily the out-of-touch tea partiers in the House.

Dow 12,951.78, -13.82 (0.11%)
NASDAQ 2,996.69, -5.51 (0.18%)
S&P 500 1,407.05, -2.41 (0.17%)
NYSE Composite 8,223.87, +0.33 (0.00%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,746,404,375
NYSE Volume 3,218,542,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2638-2837
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 94-55
WTI crude oil: 88.50, -0.59
Gold: 1,695.80, -25.30
Silver: 32.81, -0.951

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