Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stocks Split in Sloppy Session; Bond Yields Rising, Oil Sliding

Stocks slid at the opening bell, with the Dow down by as many as 117 points in the first half hour of trading, but quickly reversed direction at 10:00 am EST and continued a slow but steady gain the rest of the day.

Apparently, what turned stocks around was the October ISM Services reading, which came in at a solid 55.4, a full pint better than last month's data and a huge beat to the expected 54.0.

While questions concerning the veracity of these kinds of reports after the unusually-strong Chicago PMI data a week ago continue to swirl around, the beat on services - which is now the main production engine of the US, since we've hollowed out our manufacturing core and mostly export inflation - was enough for the Wall Street crowd to lift stocks off their lows.

That they were able to keep buying interest maintained for the remainder of the session was likely due to the usual POMO injection by the Fed, allowing for rampant speculation and unusually-high leverage.

While stocks were seeing the light of day - though the NASDAQ never quite made it into positive territory, bonds were getting slammed, up six bips in yield by the end of the day, as the gains following the end of the government shutdown are gradually being eroded. The closing level of 2.66% on the 10-year note was the highest in two-and-a-half weeks.

The big story happens to be in oil, which continues its retreat from $110/barrel highs just two months ago. Another $5.00 drop in the price of WTI will put oil into a bear market, a condition nobody has considered. While low oil prices relate positively to gas at the pump and is a boost for the economy, releasing more purchasing power, the underlying causes may be more nefarious and significant.

There is, at last, a supply-demand condition that is positive for the US, as more and more oil is being produced in North America, at the same time that demand is dwindling, or rather, has been dwindling for the past three to four years. Americans have tightened their collective belts and are much more careful about their driving habits these days, as lowered incomes have left less for transportation expenses. High unemployment also pays a part, as fewer people are driving to work five or six days a week.

So, while a period of lower gas prices is cause for celebration, the party may not be of the epic variety, with fewer participants and an overhang of disappointing economic circumstances.

Key numbers to watch tomorrow will be the MBA Mortgage Index (7:00 am), September Leading Indicators (10:00 am) and crude inventories (10:30 am).

Dow 15,618.22, -20.90 (0.13%)
Nasdaq 3,939.86, +3.27 (0.08%)
S&P 500 1,762.97, -4.96 (0.28%)
10-Yr Bond 2.66%, +0.06
NYSE Volume 3,485,473,500
Nasdaq Volume 1,899,388,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2064-3571
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 248-74
WTI crude oil: 93.37, -1.25
Gold: 1,308.10, -6.60
Silver: 21.64, 0.064
Corn: 425.00, -1.25

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