Friday, October 31, 2008

Markets Finish Stellar Week With Solid Gains

Wasn't it just a week or two ago that the world was about to end? Our global financial system was supposed to fall into some Keynesian Black Hole unless governments printed massive amounts of money and handed it over - pronto.

Well, that's what happened, kind of, and it worked, if you believe the whole story, from the blowup of Bear Stearns to the credit squeeze of September, to the "emergency" measures taken by the Fed, Treasury and the congress, whose members had that "deer in the headlights" blank stare throughout the whole process.

And glory be! Here we are with stocks around the world sporting gains like we cured the common cold, landed men on Mars and won the Triple Crown all in the same week.

The gains of the last week of October were nearly as robust as the losses earlier in the month, For the week just ended, the Dow Jones Industrials picked up 947 points; the NASDAQ ratcheted up 169 points; the S&P 500 got a 92-point boost and the NYSE Composite gained 674 points. Not bad, considering we were supposed to be facing down imminent economic collapse. Obviously, some people aren't buying the narrative.

Dow 9,325.01 +144.32; NASDAQ 1,720.95 +22.43; S&P 500 968.75 +14.66; NYSE Composite 6,061.09 +86.06

There are two dominant schools of thought at present. Both assume that the core of the crisis was a toxic combination of subprime mortgage loans, repackaged and sold as CDOs (collateralized debt obligations), plus bets against them in the form of credit default swaps and insurance on the bets (which is what AIG was holding when it blew up in their hands).

One school thinks the entire affair was above board and that the various government actions, including rate cuts, cash injections of billions of dollars, francs, yen and pounds into banks in developed countries, and a smattering of other "credit easing" measures were necessary and useful.

The more conspiratorial school believes the whole thing was cooked up by the banks and to varying extents, the governments involved, and that all the measures taken were just part of a high stakes con game in which Wall Street bankers stole billions.

How involved the two major political parties in America were involved is a matter of conjecture. Truth is that both were probably more deeply involved than we will ever know, but the end result is another free pass for the Bush thugs as they walk away with billions, and the ushering in of the Democratic party with full control and a somewhat busted budget.

If the crisis did anything, it assured the election of Barack Obama, which should have occurred any way, but also will help put a hard Democratic party majority in congress, to pass whatever legislation they see as suitable.

Whoever said, "fundamentals don't matter," hit it right on the nose for September and October of 2008. There was nothing fundamentally trackable throughout this entire episode. It was all political. Don't kid yourself.

On the day, the real fundamentals that mattered were very positive. Gainers outraced losers by a healthy margin, 4735-1640. New lows were once again far ahead of new lows, 205-18, though the number of both and the gap between them has stabilized into a range for now. Volume was moderate.

NYSE Volume 1,563,234,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,479,693,000

Commodities traded all over the board, but in the end, oil was up $1.85, to $67.81, gold lost another $20.30, to $718.20. Silver fell 6 cents to $9.73.

So, where are we now, and what's ahead? I thought you'd never ask. We have the federal funds rate at 1%, the Dow at 9300 and change and a recession that's probably already a year old. Oil is down, gold is moderating and $12 trillion dollars of wealth has just been whisked away, most of it into the ether. It's 2003 all over again! Time to start a war and buy some houses! And stocks are cheap, too! Break out the band, and have them play "Happy Days Are Here Again" until the horn section runs out of breath.

But wait, there are two big events next week. On Tuesday, we elect a new president, a whole new House of Representatives and a slew of Senators. On Friday, we get the Labor Department report on Nonfarm Payrolls from October. There will be a rally on Wednesday, for sure, and some give back on Friday, in all probability. But, not to worry, we're fine, just fine.

Have a pleasant weekend. Vote early and often.

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