Tuesday, March 29, 2011

While Japan Melts Down, US Stocks Melt Up

Though many doubted the thrust and wisdom of the Federal Reserve's QE2 and ZIRP efforts, the Fed can now claim some success.

That success, however, is limited to one's perception. If higher commodity, food and energy prices, a completely collapsed housing market and a stock market rally in which almost nobody participates is one's idea of success, then a big hand for Chairman Bernanke and his merry band of idiots otherwise known as the Board of Governors of the Fed.

It was reported yesterday in this space that trading volume had sunk to its lowest level of the year. Today's numbers were a mirror image, marking the two slowest trading days of the year, for sure, and possibly the lowest two-day total volume since sometime in 2009.

So much for the so-called wealth effect we hear so much about. The only investors actually trading are the Primary Dealers with their virtually-free POMO money. It's almost as though the markets have lost the confidence of the individual investor forever. Surely, those with pension funds tied to the market must be seeing better returns, but how long they will last is anyone's guess, though it's fair to say that as long as the Fed continues to throw $100 billion or more into the fray, stocks will keep rising. It's been about the easiest trade ever.

There isn't much more to say about today's gains other than they completely disregarded the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, which is now almost completely out of control, as one reactor appears to have melted through its containment vessel.

The wild-eyed buyers of today also paid no heed to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index, which confirmed that housing has entered the double-dip phase, falling for the sixth consecutive month. Of course, that would assume that one believes the first dip ever ended.

And everybody simply looked the other way when the Conference Board showed its index of consumer confidence fell to 63.4 this month, from a revised 72.0 in February.

Apparently, we mere mortals simply don't understand the stock market, where news is always bullish, no matter how bad it is. Supposedly, a comet obliterating all of Europe would be cause for a 1000-point rally according to the current metrics.

Whatever is going on down on the trading floors and at the desks of the biggest brokerages, it simply doesn't jibe with reality, but that's what we've got, a rogue market on its very own illogical trajectory.

Dow 12,279.01, +81.13 (0.67%)
NASDAQ 2,756.89, +26.21 (0.96%)
S&P 500 1,319.44, +9.25 (0.71%)
NYSE Composite 8,345.38, +48.86 (0.59%)

Advancers led decliners, 4381-2145. The NASDAQ reported 114 new highs and 27 new lows. On the NYSE, there were 117 new highs and 12 new lows.

NASDAQ Volume 1,610,826,875
NYSE Volume 3,856,315,250

Commodities were mixed, with oil up 81 cents on the front-end WTI contract, to $104.79. Gold slipped $3.70, to $1,416.20 and silver fell 10 cents, to $36.99 per ounce.

This represents one of the more confusing markets in history. Bad news simply will not move stocks to the downside, and any downward move is met with a rally in short order, wiping away any and all losses in a matter or days, or hours.

Hardly mentioned is the upcoming non-farm payroll data courtesy of the BLS on April 1, this Friday, though prior to that, on Wednesday, ADP will report their proprietary survey of private sector employment. That little nugget will be released at 8:15 am, EDT, though it's generally not a market mover, being widely discredited as being unreliable.

This is fun for somebody, but who that might be remains a mystery.

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