Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dow Comes Close to All-Time High, Turns Back

Stocks keep grinding higher, but the all-time high on the Dow Industrials - 14,164.53, set October 7, 2007 - continues to be an elusive target, maybe attainable, but hardly one which anybody believes will hold for long.

The general consensus over the past four weeks or so has been that the market was in need of a pullback, to re-test support, before moving to higher levels.

Today's midday action seemed promising, especially when the Dow shot up more than thirty points in a matter of minutes, breaking out of a dull, smallish range and eventually getting to within just 16 points of the record.

Headwinds were blowing from Washington and elsewhere, however, and the Dow, S&P, NYSE Composite and NASDAQ all lost steam in the final ninety minutes, leaving all in the red on the day, the fade from record territory a disheartening sign to traders.

In the nation's capitol, the Senate failed to approve a measure that would have staved off the sequestration cuts scheduled to kick in at midnight tonight which might have been just enough negativity to keep the markets honest - for a change. Prior to the open, there was disappointment in the second estimate of 4th quarter 2012 GDP, which improved from -0.1 to +0.1, though the restatement was hardly enough to inspire any kind of confidence. Stocks limped through the morning session without much in the way of direction.

A number of stocks also kept the market in check. Following Wednesday's close, JC Penny (JCP) posted another in a series of horrifying quarterly reports, falling nearly 17% on Thursday. The much-ballyhooed turnaround by Apple wunderkind Ron Johnson has failed to materialize, the CEO admitting that he had made mistakes along the way, surely the understatement of the day, though he should be lauded for his honesty, albeit a bit late.

Wal-Mart (WMT), the nation and the world's largest retailer, continues to show signs of struggling, hovering around 70/share as Bloomberg released a story based on minutes from an officers' meeting that said the giant is having trouble keeping stores' shelves stocked with merchandise.

Somehow, there just seems a certain disconnect between the US economy and the US stock markets. Obviously one does not equate directly to the other, but with unemployment around eight percent, an enormous federal deficit, gridlock in Washington and an all-time high in food stamp recipients there seems to be no good reason for stocks to be at all-time highs except for no other reason than the liquidity-driven rally fomented by the Federal Reserve since 2009.

Stocks may or may not reach new highs in short order, though from the looks of things on the ground, it's certainly not cause for celebration by the masses and surely does not seem a sustainable condition.

Any trader worth his or her chops should probably be shoveling in physical silver and gold by the bucketfuls, as both are hovering near five-month lows.

Dow 14,054.49, -20.88 (0.15%)
NASDAQ 3,160.19, -2.07 (0.07%)
S&P 500 1,514.68, -1.31 (0.09%)
NYSE Composite 8,868.72, -6.61 (0.07%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,909,055,500
NYSE Volume 3,801,066,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3204-3212
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 308-46
WTI crude oil: 92.05, -0.71
Gold: 1,578.10, -17.60
Silver: 28.40, -0.548

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