Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama Wins; Stock Market Sinks on Tax Hike, Fiscal Cliff Fears, Europe

Tuesday was an early night in terms of presidential politics as President Barack Obama was elected overwhelmingly to a second term, whipping Republican challenger in almost every battleground state and winning the popular vote handily.

With the vote in Florida still being tallied (anybody surprised?), the Sunshine State turned out to be mostly inconsequential as the president swept the key states of Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania (which never really was in play), New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada. Romney's sole win in the so-called "swing states" was in North Carolina, a state which Obama took by a narrow 0.3% in 2008.

Once the midwest states of Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio were declared for Obama, the race was over, but it wasn't until after midnight in the East that Mitt Romney gave his concession speech and later, President Obama gave a ripping, rhetorical speech extolling the virtues of freedom of choice, tolerance and working together toward shared goals and the great creation of our founders, the United States of America, individual states bound together by social compact.

In the House and Senate races, the makeup of congress remained largely the same, with Republicans dominating the House and Democrats strengthening their grip on the senate, winning key races in Virginia, Florida, and, especially, Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren, the fiery consumer rights advocate, took the seat away from Republican incumbent Scott Brown, in a major setback for big banks.

Warren, who worked on TARP and other reforms in Washington, especially the implementation of a consumer protection division at the Federal Reserve, will likely end up on the Senate banking Committee, possibly winning the chairmanship.

Another critical Senate race was won in Connecticut by Christopher Murphy, who defeated Linda McMahon, who wrestling millionaire who spent $100 million on her own campaign.

Jon Tester retained his Senate seat from Montana in a close race with Republican challenger Denny Rehberg, keeping the balance of power firmly in their control with 55 seats, along with one independent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The Democrats likely gained another ally when former governor, independent Angus King of Maine, won an open Senate seat that had been held by Republican Olympia Snowe. King has not indicated which party he would caucus with, though most believe it will be with Democrats. King won on the simple idea of making filibusters less of an effective measure in killing legislation, believing that excessive filibustering by Senate Republicans had blocked almost all significant legislation over the past four years.

There was little change in the House, as Reublicans retained control with 232 seats to 191 held by Democrats with a number of vacancies.

It wasn't long before other voices began to be heard, especially those on Wall Street who had been counting on a win by Republican Romney. Before the market opened, futures began a steep decline, though the catalyst may have nad more to do with comments by ECB president Mario Draghi and some dismal production figures from Germany, regarded as a stronghold in the recession-plagued continent.

Shortly after Germany's industrial production was reported to have fallen 1.2% in September, Draghi said that the crisis in Europe was beginning to take its toll on the industrial powerhouse that is the German economy.

Heading into the first post-election session, Dow futures were pointing toward a loss of more than 100 points at the open, and the result was worse, with the 132-point gain from Tuesday wiped out in the opening minute.

Stocks continued their descent until bottoming out just before noon, down 369 points, the biggest decline of the year, though some strengthening took all of the indices off their lows as the day progressed.

Still, the losses were dramatic and especially in the banking sector, where ank of America (BAC), Goldman Sachs (GS), JP Morgan Chase (JPM) and other big bank concerns were off more than five percent. All 10 S&P sectors finished in the red, the S&P could not defend the 1400 level and nearly bounced off its 200-day moving averages, the NASDAQ - aided by Apple's continued decline into bear market territory - broke down below its 200-DMA and the Dow closed below its 200-DMA for the first time since the beginning of June.

In Greece, rioters threw fire bombs at police in anticipation of another vote on austerity measures designed to pave the way for another round of financing from the troika of the IMF, EU and ECB. The vote, scheduled for midnight in Greece (5:00 pm ET), is expected to pass, though the populace has seemingly had enough of policies dictated by outsiders.

For Wall Street, the day presented a perfect storm of disappointment, fears of higher taxes on dividends, tighter regulations of banks, uncertainty over tax and spending policies heading into 2013, and renewed concerns over our trading partners in Europe.

The steep declines may have only been a beginning, however, as no policies have changed, and, actually, the political makeup in Washington remained the same as it had been the day before. The continued gridlock coming from the White House and Capitol Hill may be the most disconcerting factor of all.

Some internal damage was done to markets, with the advance-decline line showing a nearly 5-1 edge for losers and new highs being surpassed by new lows, 94-174.

With none of the important initiatives nearing resolution, there seems to be nowhere for the market to go but down, now that the election is over, earnings season is just about finished and the market must focus on fundamentals and locking in gains for the year. The remainder of 2012 may prove to be quite challenging to investors.

Dow 12,932.73, -312.95 (2.36%)
NASDAQ 2,937.29, -74.64 (2.48%)
S&P 500 1,394.53, -33.86 (2.37%)
NYSE Composite 8,138.80, -173.55 (2.09%)
NASDAQ Volume 4,322,112,500
NYSE Volume 2,059,028,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 961-4613
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 94-174
WTI crude oil: 84.44, -4.27
Gold: 1,714.00, -1.00
Silver: 31.66, -0.373

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