Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wall Street and Washington's Theater of the Absurd

To say that the market is comical might be a bit of an understatement, as, under the current regime of endless QE, ZIRP, no-loss corporate interests and unlimited cash funding for all manner of speculation the entity that used to be known as the "stock market" is a sad comedy with wickedly tragic undertones.

Amidst the furor over "fiscal cliff" issues, Wall Street has managed to keep a straight face, as have most commentators and analysts, but today's activity was right out of the old PPT handbook.

Despite early morning futures pump-priming, actually solid economic data and no progress in Washington, stocks found themselves slumped into negative territory at 11:00 am ET.

However, this being a market typified by HFT and wing-and-a-prayer whimsical day-trading, that point in time marked low tide for the day.

Without warning and on absolutely no relevant news (we searched and searched and could not find a suitable catalytic argument), the Dow Industrials surged a massive 150 points in the next hour, making a v-bottom u-turn that was dazzling if for only its rapidity.

The news wires were touting the move as inspired by Bank of America, and, to a lesser extent, Citigroup, which today announced layoffs of 11,000, sending that stock up 2.17 (6.33%). It's a counter-intuitive world when slashing jobs causes such a huge run-up, but this is, after all, the bizarre world of Wall Street, where profits supersede humanity. BofA, for its part, surged 56 cents, to 10.46, a new 52-week high. The only caveat for the TBTF banks might be that they are in the midst of another round of stress tests, and, apparently, are set to receive passing grades despite having a multitude of unresolved bad debts residing both on and off their balance sheets.

Finally marking its zenith with a 137-point advance, the Dow meandered along through the afternoon, finally giving up the charade late in the session by cutting its gains nearly in half. The other laughable part was Apple (AAPL) which was hammered once again by profit-takers, taking down the NASDAQ - which remained in the red all session long - with it.

It's fairly common knowledge that over the past four years, rallies led by banks hae a kind of phantom character to them. Since banking's books are so opaque, only the select circle of insiders really know how to value them, and said values may or may not be realistic. Time only will tell.

Belying the rally, the advance-decline line was negative and the margin of new highs over new lows continued to tighten.

Meanwhile, Washington did its part to keep the comical nature of events going strong. Congressional members largely departed the Capitol at noon today, apparently having nothing to do and opting for a long weekend. Yes, a long weekend, just prior to what's planned to be a three-week holiday holiday beginning December 14.

Tis strange – but true; for truth is always strange; stranger than fiction.
-- Lord Byron

Dow 13,034.49, +82.71 (0.64%)
NASDAQ 2,973.70, -22.99 (0.77%)
S&P 500 1,409.28, +2.23 (0.16%)
NYSE Composite 8,270.43, +46.56 (0.57%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,747,690,750
NYSE Volume 4,086,650,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2641-2821
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 121-65
WTI crude oil: 87.88, -0.62
Gold: 1,693.80, -2.00
Silver: 32.96, +0.149

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