Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cyprus Banks Re-Open; S&P Makes New All-Time High

Not certain which of these two historic events will eventually bear more weight, but the banks in Cyprus opened at noon (Cyprus time) on Thursday after being shuttered for more than two weeks and the S&P made an all-time closing high.

For investors, the S&P event is a watershed moment, capping a long bull run of just over four years that began at 666 on the index and now closes nearly 100 points better.

For the citizens of Cyprus, the events of the past two weeks and the reopening of the banks today will have great weight, but in the opposite direction. Now that the banking situation in the Mediterranean island nation are more or less "normalized" - with uninsured depositors (over 100,000 euros) likely to lose 40% or more of their deposits - and the country headed directly into a depression, the contagion, for now, limited, though anybody with large deposits in any European bank has to be walking on eggshells presently.

The limits for Cypriots are stiff: withdrawals from banks are limited to 300 euros per day; checks cannot be cashed, only deposited; leaving the island with more than 3000 euros is outlawed. Welcome to the Cyprus debt prison and hotel. Payrolls are exempt from limits as the banking officials want to see money circulating to some degree, though people will be surely more frugal in their spending habits.

The Dow closed at another record high and ends the quarter (Markets are closed Friday) up 11%, marking the best quarterly returns since 1998. The S&P was right behind, clocking a 10% return for the quarter.

As the market has shown throughout the four-year bull run, news doesn't matter; it's all good on Wall Street. The Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 52.4 in March, down sharply from the 56.8 reported in February.

Initial jobless claims also cam in worse than expected, rising to 357K, up from 341K in the prior week.

Monday is the start of a new month and a new quarter, as well as being April Fool's Day, which begs the question: who will be the fools, those who exited on the record high today or those looking to squeeze more gains out of the long-running bull market?

The highs on the S&P are nominal ones, slightly above levels hit in 2000 and 2007, more commonly known as a triple top.

It's never a good idea to buy high, because you're likely to end up selling lower, but it's really tough to bet against Ben Bernanke and the Fed printing presses churning out $85 billion a month in free money. The sprinters are far ahead at the moment, but investing is more of a marathon. And, don't forget, this rally has been built not only on quickly depreciating greenbacks but on horrifyingly low volume. Additionally, the advance-Decline line has been exhibiting much less breadth than one would normally associate with a raging bull.

Pick your poison, but don't keep all your eggs in one basket.

Happy Easter!

Dow 14,578.54, +52.38 (0.36%)
NASDAQ 3,267.52, +11.00 (0.34%)
S&P 500 1,569.19, +6.34 (0.41%)
NYSE Composite 9,106.83, +36.38 (0.40%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,555,418,875.00
NYSE Volume 3,481,085,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3865-2537
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 557-32
WTI crude oil: 97.23, +0.65
Gold: 1,594.80, -11.40
Silver: 28.32, -0.289

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