Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stocks Plunge, Recover, End Flat on Fed's Beige Book, Data

A raft of economic news hit the street on Wednesday, but, for the most part, all it did was add to the confusion surrounding the Fed's bond-buying scheme and Friday's non-farm payroll release for November.

Leading off the hit parade - prior to the open - was ADP's November private payroll number, gushing at a robust 215,000 new jobs created during the month, which turned futures sour and set a negative tone for the session (remember, good news is bad because the Fed would likely diminish the free money carry trade known as QE).

Then came data on the US trade deficit, which narrowed to $40.6 billion, more good news. New home sales surged 25%, though the median price declined slightly, another positive for the economy.

The mood changed with ISM Services data, showing a slowing from 55.4 in October to 53.9 in November. Overall, the mood on Wall Street turned to fear of an improving economy (sad, but true how twisted the logic is), sending stocks to their lows of the session around midday.

With the Dow off 125 points and the other major indices following suit, the Fed's beige book was released at 2:00 pm ET, and, apparently, enough investors and traders found enough evidence to believe that the Fed was nowhere close to tapering their bond purchases, igniting a rally that sent the Dow into positive territory briefly in the final half hour of trading.

While this is a plausible explanation of the day's roller coaster activity, some did not get the memo or read the tea leaves of the Fed clearly enough, as the rally sizzled, then fizzled into the close, leaving the Dow and S&P modestly lower, the NASDAQ up a couple of points.

At the end of the day, it was a big, fat, nothing=burger, though some adroit day-traders certainly cashed in on the movement and momentum.

With the Dow down for the third time in three December days, it marks the first time that's happened to start a month since September, 2011.

The BLS monthly non-farm payroll report will be released Friday morning, leaving Thursday as a kind of limbo trade. Based on the smashing results of the ADP report, expectations are for a boffo government report, producing, alas, another downdraft on stocks. such is the madness that moves markets in the age of QEternity and ZIRP until the end of time.

Thursday, therefore, would be a good day to relax, take some time off and buy some gold or silver, both of which saw heavy buying after weeks and weeks of relentless selling. A bottom may have been put in on the precious metals, or not. In any case, they're very cheap compared to prices over the past three years. Besides, they're shiny and guaranteed not to rust.

Bonds sold off, with the 10-year note hitting 2.84% yield at the end of the day, a watershed mark and the highest yield since October.

Volume was relatively strong, the advance-decline line continued to post a negative number, and the gap between new highs and new lows narrowed to its lowest point since the government shutdown in October, a key number on which to train one's investment eyes.

DOW 15,889.77, -24.85 (-0.16%)
NASDAQ 4,038.00, +0.80 (+0.02%)
S&P 1,792.81, -2.34 (-0.13%)
10-Yr Note 99.18, -0.03 (-0.03%)
NASDAQ Volume 1.81 Bil
NYSE Volume 3.59 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2236-3418
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 150-111
WTI crude oil: 97.20, +1.16
Gold: 1,247.20, +26.40
Silver: 19.83, +0.765
Corn: 436.50, +5.25

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