Friday, March 15, 2013

Ides of March Kills Dow Streak; S&P Still Short of Record

2057 years ago (44 BC, to be exact), Julius Caesar was murdered by a knife in the back from a supposed ally - Brutus - who was acting at the behest of other members of the Roman Senate.

While today's failure of the Dow Jones Industrial average to make it eleven days in a row of gains fails by comparison in an historical context, the Ides of March (March 15) struck again, this time - unlike in caesar's final days - without warning.

The final tally for stocks was not so - pardon the pun - brutish as a knife in the back; today's silly downfall more resembled a paper cut, but, the rally has paused on what was one of the busier days Wall Street has seen in some time.

Combining a quadruple options witching day with a rebalancing of indices, volume was significantly pumped up beyond the normal dullness that has persevered over the past, what, four years?.

In any case, the selling pressure was enough to take stocks down in the early part of the session, only to see all the major indices rally to cut the extent of the losses by roughly two-thirds.

The key numbers to watch going into next week are 1565 on the S&P, which is the all-time closing high, set in October, 2007, a number in and of itself which was largely the result of excessive risk-taking and a monstrous credit bubble which has reappeared over the past 18 months.

On the Dow, the number would be 14,470.50, today's intraday low, a significant enough digit to mark the first line of support should the rally fail to metastasize next week.

The other streaks which came to an end today, beyond the Dow's 10-straight positive closes, were the string of Fridays in which the Dow closed positively and the all-up closes for the month of March. Today was the first day of March in which the Dow finished without a gain and also was the first Friday of 2013 to see a negative finish.

Not that today's smallish decline was anything for anybody to get excited about - it wasn't - but the end of a ten-day string of gains was monumental, being only the eighth time the Dow had ever strung together psotive closes in ten or more consecutive sessions.

With options expiry out of the way for the month (regardless of the weekly options now in vogue), there exists some probability that the markets could turn down in the near term, though analysts are still split on that particular notion.

All that can be said for now is that March - which in market terms came in like a lion - got a little of the lamb treatment today, stabbed and readied for roasting.

Dow 14,514.11, -25.03 (0.17%)
NASDAQ 3,249.07, -9.86 (0.30%)
S&P 500 1,560.70, -2.53 (0.16%)
NYSE Composite 9,116.50, -11.47 (0.13%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,156,822,000
NYSE Volume 5,242,731,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2970-3455
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 527-46
WTI crude oil: 93.45, +0.42
Gold: 1,592.60, +1.90
Silver: 28.85, +0.044

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