Monday, April 1, 2013

April's Fools? 2nd Quarter Off to Poor Start; David Stockman Op-Ed on the Money

US stocks got ramped pretty hard in the first quarter of 2013, with the Dow up 11% and the S&P tagging along with a 10% gain.

In more normal economic times, those first quarter returns would equate into a rather solid year of gains, but in the "new normal" of Fed pumping of $85 billion monthly into the economy, through treasury and MBS purchases (both probably losing investments), it's just more of the same: profits for Wall Street traders and bankers, crumbs for the American public.

Stocks struggled right from the opening bell and traded in fairly narrow ranges on the major indices, with the NASDAQ being the hardest hit, oddly, since the NAZ is home to some of the more speculative darlings which Wall Street loves to pump (and dump).

So, the Dow and S&P set all-time highs at the close of the first quarter, but cascading headlong into earnings season, some investors are apparently not so sure those levels can be maintained.

Now that Cyprus is out of the headlines but not out of the memories of bank depositors worldwide, there's reason to believe the skeptics are correct, especially if one was to read the scathing op-ed by former congressman and budget director under Ronald Reagan, David Stockman, which appeared glaringly in Easter Sunday's New York Times, an oddity for the newspaper so beloved by liberals and adherents of Obama-nomics.

The opinion piece, aptly titled, "Sundown in America" detailed a litany of statistics and trends that protray America as a failing economy headed by a flailing Federal Reserve, which has embarked upon, in Stockman's words, "a radical, uncharted spree of money printing."

It's a must-read for anyone who doesn't believe the stats trotted out by the usual bullish analysts and government mouthpieces, because it debunks the myths surrounding unemployment figures, growth projections, the sustainability of enormous government deficits and the inevitable end-game of a bond market bubble of massive proportions.

For those who wish to remain soothed by willful ignorance (99% of the population), skip it and just go shopping, cell phone in hand, of course, believing that everything is under control and those problems we hear about in other countries simply can't happen here, because we're America, damn it.

However, those who believe what their own eyes see and their own ears hear, might want to ponder the long-term ramifications of more than a decade of easy money, electronically printed into existence by the Federal Reserve and dutifully sucked up by the thieving class of politicians and bankers that have profited handsomely while the rest of the country suffered and continues to wallow in a slow-to-no-growth environment.

Additionally, the one statistic of note today was the March reading of the ISM index, which fell to a ten-month low of 51.3 on a forecast of 54.0, after positing a splendid 54.2 in February. One of the more closely-watched numbers on Wall Street delivered what may be the first of many blows to confidence of market gain continuity this week.

Whatever the case, the double whammy of Stockton's searing indictment of US fiscal and monetary policies and a poor reading on manufacturing, was net negative for equities today.

Beyond that, volume fell to it's lowest level of the year and the advance-decline line was the worst in weeks, prompting concerns that those who were eating well in the first quarter may become the meal in the second three months of the year.

Dow 14,572.85, -5.69 (0.04%)
NASDAQ 3,239.17, -28.35 (0.87%)
S&P 500 1,562.17, -7.02 (0.45%)
NYSE Composite 9,057.65, -49.39 (0.54%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,446,869,375
NYSE Volume 3,019,881,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1900-4482
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 357-60
WTI crude oil: 97.07, -0.16
Gold: 1,600.90, +5.20
Silver: 27.94, -0.379

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