Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stocks Trashed Again on Brace of Poor Economic Data

Possibly more than anything else, the horrific -12.5 print by the Philadelphia Fed was responsible for the added declines on Thursday, following Wednesday's setback after the FOMC minutes from january were announced.

The market was expecting a reading of 1.5 from the Philly Fed in its survey of business conditions, which, in and of itself, is a bit of an embarrassment, but were greeted with an even lower number for February after january came in at a disappointing -5.8. Obviously, there's little to no catalyst for improvement in the region, and the same is pretty much true in other Fed outposts, though the Philadelphia survey gets more attention, it representing a solid hub of business activity.

Beyond the sorry report, other economic data was less-than-encouraging. First-time unemployment claims ticked up 20,000, from a revised 342K last week, to 362K in the latest reporting period, dashing - for the time being - any hope of a rebound in employment.

This is a fickle, almost psychotic market. On the one hand, traders get worried that the Fed will take away the punch bowl of unlimited QE and low interest rates, but, on the other, they are equally concerned that the general economy is again approaching stall speed, as it did last year and in 2011 in the early months.

Whatever the market is feeling these past two days, it is mostly confusion and consternation. The major averages took some serious dips into the red today before a wicked, final-hour, short-covering rally brought them close to unchanged on the day, eventually failing in the final half hour of trading.

One can hardly blame the shorts for pulling a quick trigger on their positions this afternoon. Attempting to short this market and counter the Fed's relentless money creation machine has been a losing trade for the better part of four years and its a testament to the resolve of the non-believers to hold true even on a two-day reversal.

US markets were not the only ones being handed their hats on Thursday. European markets were shattered even worse after a key reading on services and manufacturing fell from 48.6 in January to 47.3 in February, well short of expectations, where the consensus was 49. It may be finally dawning on european investors that various bond schemes by the ECB and austerity measures in various countries aren't producing the desired effects and may even be contributing to continued weakness in the Eurozone.

Taken together, the Eurozone and the US are beginning to look like a pair of gussied-up party girls after a long night on the town. The makeup is fading and cracking and the hangover is setting in with a passion.

Even though two days of trading does not constitute a trend of any sort, the past two have been the worst in succession for US stocks this year and there may not be much of a respite with sequestration issues and a budget battle looming between the opposing parties in the nation's capitol, and those are two fights the American public is hardly keen on, as congress and the president have both shown an unwavering reluctance to handle pressing business like adults, preferring to play the blame game and seek short-term, band-aid types of approaches.

How the markets play out over the next few weeks and months will go a long way toward determining the mood on Wall Street and Main Street, and the mood - despite the best intentions by business - is beginning to show signs that patience is growing exceedingly thin.

Elsewhere, gold got a bit of a dead-cat-bounce after a month of steady declines, giving back those gains during the open session, though silver remains mired at multi-month lows. The metal prices may move even lower, in union with stocks, although one would be hard-pressed to find an actual physical holder of either willing to part with any or all of his or her holdings. Suppression by central banks and other operators has been well-documented, and the more they push down, the more dire conditions for a sharp response become.

Crude oil also has been taken a beating as speculators are having their lunch eaten. Overabundant supplies of WTI crude and slack demand is causing a serious disruption in the trading, which has been nothing but straight up since December. Oil and gas at the pump are about to get a whole lot cheaper.

It's getting a little bit interesting out there after the champagne rally of the first seven weeks of the year. The A-D line has been in reversal for two straight days and today's new highs - new lows reading was nearly at parity, a condition foreign to these markets since last November.

Dow 13,880.62, -46.92 (0.34%)
NASDAQ 3,131.49, -32.92 (1.04%)
S&P 500 1,502.42, -9.53 (0.63%)
NYSE Composite 8,816.74, -66.88 (0.75%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,007,395,000
NYSE Volume 4,414,224,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1942-4569
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 104-78
WTI crude oil: 92.84, -2.38
Gold: 1,578.60, +0.60
Silver: 28.70, +0.077

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