Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wall St.: Going Nowhere, Slowly

The markets traded in a tight, positive range on Thursday, on extremely low volume characterized by choppiness all session long.

Little more can be said about one of the most lackluster sessions in recent memory.

There was no shocking news on the housing front (wait until tomorrow for that, when Existing Home Sales data is released), few analyst advisories of note, no big Fed speeches or astounding earnings figures.

It was a relief, of sorts, after two consecutive days of deep declines. Investors have to weigh the relative merits of buying into new positions or taking profits as we head into a long and very uncertain summer.

Dow 12,625.62 +24.43; NASDAQ 2,464.58 +16.31; S&P 500 1,394.35 +3.64; NYSE Composite 9,433.35 +36.32

The price of oil on the futures market actually took a breather for a change, dropping $2.36, to $130.81. It's almost as though the schemers in the futures pits realize that the entire world's attention is now focused on them and it was time to take a little froth off the top.

As I've mentioned here previously, oil and energy prices hold the potential for worldwide economic maladies, forcing all manner of inequities in prices for food, especially, and just about any other aspect of human life. Speculation in oil futures has been largely overblown, and, like any orderly market, some kind of correction should be on the horizon.

The oil markets, however, are obviously not orderly. In fact, they are one among the most misunderstood and unregulated of any commodities. There simply are too many sources of data and conflicting readings for anyone to actually have a handle on the true value of a barrel of crude.

Thus, the futures take the path of least resistance, and possibly that of outright manipulation, heading up. Bringing down prices will almost certainly take something approaching an act of God, since there is no hard-and-fast pricing mechanism. Only one thing is certain. We all pay more for heating homes and driving autos.

Advancing issues took a slight edge over decliners, 3476-2548, though new lows once again trumped new highs, 180-91. The recent see-sawing between the new highs-lows and advance-decline metrics continues to suggest more sideways trading with a bearish bent.

It is worth noting that today's spread between the new lows-highs (89) is among the largest in recent vintages.

Gold lost $10.80 to $918.30, while silver dropped just 3 cents to close at $18.03.

With tomorrow the final session before a three-day weekend, another 100+ point loss on the Dow would not be surprising in the least, though another day just like today is probably more likely.

NYSE Volume 1,187,776,000
NASDAQ Volume 1,964,569,000

No comments: