Tuesday, June 18, 2013

When Three Strikes Is a Home Run

In the game of baseball, there are rules, immutable and unchanging. Three outs per inning. A caught fly ball is an out. Three strikes and you're out.

The world of high finance, as demonstrated daily on the trading platforms, carries no such rules, other than simple casino-style paradigms. Make the right bet, at the right time, and you're a winner, after the various parties to the trade take their respective cuts, of course. The broker gets theirs, the government, another. It's more about timing and luck, especially these days, when nothing much matters other than the directionality of the various computer algos plying and playing the indices.

So it is that in stocks, you have situations like today, wherein three strikes equates to hitting a home run. Prior to the opening bell, three different sets of economic data were presented, and, against expectations, all were swings and misses, except maybe the seasonally-adjusted building permits, which could be weighed as a foul tip into the catcher's mitt, a strike by any other name.

First came the May CPI, up 0.1%, on expectation of a rise of 0.2%, well short of the Fed's annualized two percent inflation target. Strike one. Next up, housing starts, which banked 914K, well below expectations of 950K. Strike two. As mentioned above, building permits, which mean nothing other than somebody is planning to do something, like put up a fence or remodel a bathroom, were just under the expected annualized rate of 975K - at 974K. Strike three.

The market response was as expected, with deference and possibly blissful ignorance toward the headline numbers, straight up all day, a veritable home run, even as auto sales in Europe reached 20-year lows and an agent of our very own secret police, the NSA (No Such Agency, to wise guys) testified to congress that the wholly unconstitutional massive spying program that filters every American's phone calls, emails and internet activity, prevented the bombing of the NY Stock Exchange by some nefarious, insidious suspect known only as "the doctor" in 2008. The NSA says more than 50 terrorist plots were uncovered by their spy programs since 9/11/2001. Not even the best Hollywood script writers could have come up with a better narrative to deprive citizens of their fourth amendment rights. Those NSA guys hire only the best, you know.

Thus stocks ended the day close to all-time highs once again. The Dow Industrials are within spitting distance - less than 100 points - of the May 28 closing high of 15,409.39 as the Fed ponders what to do next, wrapping up their two-day FOMC meeting on Wednesday. A policy decision is due out at 2:00 pm EDT, followed by a reading of the statement and press conference, by everybody's favorite "doctor," the dis-honorable Ben Bernanke, balding, bearded, wizened Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

With recent jawboning efforts pointing toward some tightening of Fed policy, the markets seem to be expecting no change in course for the every-easy Fed, and, while there's some nervousness over the wording of the statement, one might suspect that an even more important date - expiry of June options contracts on Friday - may be what's really driving the markets higher this week.

With baited breath we await the words of fearless leader the Chairman. Can't wait.

Dow 15,318.23, +138.38 (0.91%)
NASDAQ 3,482.18, +30.05 (0.87%)
S&P 500 1,651.81, +12.77 (0.78%)
NYSE Composite 9,399.63, +61.74 (0.66%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,593,283,375
NYSE Volume 3,392,735,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4430-2051
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 327-76
WTI crude oil: 98.44, +0.67
Gold: 1,366.90, -16.20
Silver: 21.68, -0.081

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