Showing posts with label commodities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label commodities. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Money, Currency, Value, Elusive, Changing, Unequal

This being the final posting for 2019, a divergence...

It's December 31. Do you know where your money is? Better, do you know what your money is?

To the unwashed, money is the crumpled pieces of paper in your pocket with pictures of dead presidents on them and some funny neo-Latin phrases and pulpy words like trust, debt, public, private, America.

It's not. Those papers are currency. Money is different. Gold is money. Silver is money. Diamonds and other precious gems are money. The paper is a convenience, a value identifier. In and of themselves, the papers with 10s or 20s or 100s on them are worth roughly the paper and ink, nothing more. But, in the minds of the unwashed, this is all there is. To them it is money. It is not money. It is currency.

The things we crave: food, shelter, cars, jewelry, these things have value. Words and numbers on paper, or digits on a computer or smartphone screen have only perceived value inasmuch as they can purchase the things we want or need, two wholly different things.

It is the thing itself that has value. The house, who some say is "worth" $450,000, others may see as worth less or as a massive misallocation of value. The house is shelter, an environment, a place of safeness, a sanctuary. It's value is derived from the joy or comfort it bestows upon the occupant(s), the safety it provides from threats of other men, from weather which we cannot control, form animal invaders. It's value, while it may be measured by a currency, is subjective. One man's 30,000 square foot castle may be no more comforting or safe than another man's cardboard box on a city sidewalk. It's a matter of perspective.

Further out, beyond the pointlessness of printed currencies, the anonymity of digitized value-measures, the sheer madness of crypto-currencies, are the certificates of ownership, of stocks, bonds, debentures, options, derivatives. Have these any intrinsic value? Not in the least. It is all perception and judgement of crowds. Often judgements are incorrect, inaccurate, altruistic, nonsensical, amusing, boring, tired, obsolete or otherwise jaded.

Like a horse race, the public gets to choose upon which favoritism is bequeathed. One horse may be valued at odds of eight-to-five. Another, sixty-to-one. They are both horses. They both run. Who is to say which horse is better on any given day? The judgement of crowds is more often wrong than right. The eight-to-five stallion does not always win the race. In fact, in practice, public favorites win only a third of the time. Imagine the same measure applied to value? A painting which sold for $300,000 in 2005, may sell for $2 million in 2020, and $45,000 in 2030. Such is the nature of value and currency. None of the numbers are correct indefinitely, but rather, acceptable in a given time, at a given place. Both value and currency are in constant flux and struggle against reality.

There is no real value in a painting.

A painting can neither feed nor clothe you, shelter you (perhaps from a rainstorm for a short period, but it would ruin the colors), but it can provide joy, prestige of ownership, emotion.

There's a number for all of that; it's elusive and always changing.

But, it's not money.

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

-- Robert Burns, 1788

At the Close, Monday, December 30, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 28,462.14, -183.12 (-0.64%)
NASDAQ: 8,945.99, -60.62 (-0.67%)
S&P 500: 3,221.29, -18.73 (-0.58%)
NYSE Composite: 13,876.15, -67.99 (-0.49%)

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ignore the Noise as Markets Grind Bond Yields Toward Zero

Thursday's trading saw more of the usual up-and-down twerking that usually accompanies large moves in either direction. After Wednesday's rout - the fourth-largest point decline on the Dow Industrials - some bounce was expected, and it did occur early, though markets slipped into the red midday before being rescued by apparently-optimistic investors (central banks, PPT) into the close.

Interesting is the idea that Wednesday's selloff was not met with more panic in the media and by the general public. Stocks have been volatile since October of last year, so the possibility that people are zoned out from the near-constant drubbing and recovery is real.

People should actually care that their college retirement funds are at so much risk in stocks, but that doesn't seem to be the case among the 401K crowd. Getting used to uncertainty is a kind of Stockholm syndrome that is inimitable to the Wall Street casino. The general public may get agitated more over mass shootings, tweets by the president, or a bad call in an NFL game, but when it comes to the money betting on their futures, they are sheepish.

Maybe that's a good thing when talking about market noise, but an 800-point drop on the Dow is something that shouldn't be ignored or overlooked. There are damn good reasons stocks get hammered, and even passive investors should express at least a modicum of concern.

Be that as it may, Thursday was more of the noisy variety, though most other markets - bonds, commodities, futures, FX - were being bounced around pretty vigorously, especially treasury bonds, where the 10-year-note continues to fall, reaching for all-time lows.

The 10-year is hovering in the 1.47 - 1.65 range. The all-time low yield on the benchmark 10-year was 1.375, on July 5, 2016. Anybody wearing a thinking cap clearly sees where this recent decline is headed. With now $16 trillion in bonds yielding negative returns globally, US treasuries stick out like sore thumbs. In the race to the bottom, the 10-year will fall below the record low yield. It's simply a matter of time. Eventually, US bonds will likely carry negative yields as the global financial system, rescued by central banks in 2008-09, completely falls apart over the next three to five years.

Money is dying. Fiat money will die quite painfully.

At the Close, Thursday, August 15, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 25,579.39, +99.97 (+0.39%)
NASDAQ: 7,766.62, -7.32 (-0.09%)
S&P 500: 2,847.60, +7.00 (+0.25%)
NYSE Composite: 12,409.54, +41.49 (+0.34%)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Weekend Wrap: Stocks Slip, Yields Rise, Precious Metals Bid

Stocks closed out the week n subdued fashion, with the major averages hugging the unchanged line throughout most of Friday's session.

Overall, the close-out of the quarter was less dramatic than usual, with little to no "window dressing" done by traders and/or speculators. Stocks were generally down for the week, with the notable exception of the NASDAQ, which was the only one of the major indices to post a weekly gain.

Other than Tesla (TSLA), in which, over the weekend, CEO Elon Musk's deal with the SEC on the heels of their lawsuit, there was little to hang a trade on in the final week of the month. Musk agreed to pay a $20 million fine and the same amount from company coffers. While Musk was stripped of his role as chairman of the Tesla board of directors for three years, he will continue on as CEO.

Stocks remained near all-time highs, and October usually brings additional volatility, such with elections on the horizon and third quarter earnings trickling out after the first week of the month.

After the Fed's FOMC raised the federal funds rate to 2.00-2.25% on Wednesday, stocks fell somewhat out of favor, as bond yields continue to attract large, safety-seeking money. The 10-year note finished the week comfortably above the 3.00% demarkation line, at 3.056%, a number some analysts suggest may cause the demise of some stocks, especially the more speculative variety (read: tech) and those that do not offer a steady dividend.

Crude oil was higher for the week, with WTI topping out over $73 per barrel, a four-year high. Pinching drivers at the pump may not be conducive to gains in equity prices. High gas prices act as a tax on all consumers, but affect the poor and middle class the hardest.

Gold and silver caught some bids late in the week though they continue to wallow in a prolonged slump near three-year lows. Inflation, being still somewhat tame, will likely keep a lid on the prices of precious metals and commodities overall.

Dow Jones Industrial Average September Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
9/4/18 25,952.48 -12.34 -12.34
9/5/18 25,974.99 +22.51 +10.17
9/6/18 25,995.87 +20.88 +31.05
9/7/18 25,916.54 -79.33 -48.28
9/10/18 25,857.07 -59.47 -107.75
9/11/18 25,971.06 +113.99 +6.24
9/12/18 25,998.92 +27.86 +34.10
9/13/18 26,145.99 +147.07 +181.17
9/14/18 26,154.67 +8.68 +189.85
9/17/18 26,062.12 -92.55 +97.30
9/18/18 26,246.96 +184.84 +282.14
9/19/18 26,405.76 +158.80 +440.94
9/20/18 26,656.98 +251.22 +692.16
9/21/18 26,743.50 +86.52 +778.68
9/24/18 26,562.05 -181.45 +597.23
9/25/18 26,492.21 -69.84 +527.39
9/26/18 26,385.28 -106.93 +420.46
9/27/18 26,439.93 +54.65 +475.11
9/28/18 26,458.31 +18.38 +493.49

At the Close, Friday, September 28, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,458.31, +18.38 (+0.07%)
NASDAQ: 8,046.35, +4.38 (+0.05%)
S&P 500: 2,913.98, -0.02 (0.00%)
NYSE Composite: 13,082.52, -23.20 (-0.18%)

For the Week:
Dow: -285.19 (-1.07%)
NASDAQ: +59.40 (+0.74%)
S&P 500: -15.69 (-0.54%)
NYSE Composite: -153.92 (-1.16%)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Weekend Wrap: Investors Disappointed, Spurring September Selloff; Tesla On The Ropes; EM Bears

Tech and transportation stocks, the Dow, and the S&P 500 all registered positive gains in August, but once the three-day Labor Day holiday turned the calendar to September, much of summer's optimism turned to autumn angst as all four of the major indices - lead by tech and the NASDAQ - began showing signs of weariness.

The NASDAQ lost ground in all four of the short week's trading sessions, combining for a 2.55% decline in the first week of September. While much of the losses can be attributed to profit-taking, the biggest declines belonged to the beloved FAANGs, all of which fell in a wide-based tech retreat. Facebook (FB) Amazon (AMZN), Apple (APPL), Netflix (NFLX) and Alphabet, parent of Google (GOOG) all suffered losses, though the biggest decline was seen on the stock of Tesla (TSLA), as continuing concerns over the health not only of the company's finances, but of founder and CEO, Elon Musk, snatched nearly 13% off its price in four days.

Shares of the electric car-maker are down 30% since reaching a peak of 379.57 on August 7. Tesla closed out the week at 263.24, within 10 points of its 52-week low due to a rash of executive departures and strange behavior by Musk, which included threats to critics, talk of taking the company private, crying, drinking, and taking a toke on a joint during a podcast interview.

While Musk's behavior is certainly a major factor influencing the share price, more concerning are questions over the company's continued viability. Yet to turn a profit, Tesla is burdened with an excessive amount of debt and faces competition in the electric car space from the likes of BMW, Porsche, Audi, and scores of Japanese and American automakers as the number of competitive electric autos already in market or due to be soon has steadily increased over the past 18 months.

With a poor track record, mounting issues with reliability and safety, and Musk's seemingly manic-depressive behavior, investors are bracing for the worst, fleeing in record numbers. With share prices still at stratospheric levels, the declines should continue for the foreseeable future.

As for the other tech titans, it would appear that Apple, Google, and Amazon are still in a safe zone, despite lofty valuations, but Facebook and Netflix may suffer further declines. Both companies have internal and external problems which have yet to be addressed adequately. The numbers suggest that users of the social platform and streaming video service are not increasing at the same rates previously encountered and continued growth is a major question.

The Dow appeared to be the safe space for traders until Friday, when it led markets lower despite positive news on employment, with September jobs increasing by 201,000 in August, ahead of analyst estimates, and wage growth increasing to 2.9% annualized.

Though the numbers were encouraging for the middle class, the investor class may have been eyeing the bullish employment figures with a jaded eye, focusing on the upcoming FOMC meeting at the end of the month (September 25-26), in which the Fed is expected to raise the key federal funds rate another 25 basis points, to 2.00-2.25%. The usual knee-jerk reaction to Fed rate hikes is to sell equities and buy bonds, and that dynamic may well have been in play on Friday and might contribute to further selling in the weeks leading up to the policy meeting.

Also on the minds of investors was the global drawdown in emerging markets, which is approaching or already is in bear market conditions. The strong dollar and use of the US as a safe haven has led to capitulation in currencies and markets, especially in Turkey and Argentina, each of which have suffered sharp currency devaluations over the past six months. Turkey is stubbornly fighting the carnage from within, whereas Argentina has supposedly reached agreement on a bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Argentina's condition in world markets seems to be that of a chronic abuser as this is a repetitive pattern by that deadbeat debtor nation.

While the EM bust has yet to affect US markets in any major way, European and Far East markets have felt some pain, especially in Germany, as the DAX is already in correction, down more than 10% this year. If and when the EM issues become a contagion will be a top of mind issue in the weeks and months ahead.

Precious metals and the entire commodity complex continued to face stiff selling. Gold and silver are trading at three-year lows and are vulnerable to any number of potential market shocks. They are traditionally the first assets sold in a widespread market rout and may be signaling more trouble ahead.

While caution is always advisable, the run-up to the US midterm elections may be particularly volatile as cantankerous political forces vie for control of the enormous state and federal governmental complex.

Dow Jones Industrial Average September Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
9/4/18 25,952.48 -12.34 -12.34
9/5/18 25,974.99 +22.51 +10.17
9/6/18 25,995.87 +20.88 +31.05
9/7/18 25,916.54 -79.33 -48.28

At the Close, Friday, September 7, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 25,916.54, -79.33 (-0.31%)
NASDAQ: 7,902.54, -20.18 (-0.25%)
S&P 500: 2,871.68, -6.37 (-0.22%)
NYSE Composite: 12,911.12, -27.79 (-0.21%)

For the Week:
Dow: -48.28 (-0.19%)
NASDAQ: -207.00 (-2.55%)
S&P 500: -29.84 (-1.03%)
NYSE Composite: -105.77 (-0.81%)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Weekend Wrap: Dow Slammed, Wiping Out August Gains

Against the backdrop of news that Turkey's lira was crashing against foreign currencies, stocks were hammered lower in nearly every market around the world Friday, the hardest hit regionally being Germany's DAX (-1.99%), Brazil's Ibovesta (-2.86%), and Japan's NIKKEI 255 (-1.33%).

The lira, Turkey's official currency fell 20% on Friday, a dramatic move seldom seen in FX markets.

The American bourses being the last to finish out the week, the results were expectably negative, though not nearly approaching the levels seen in Europe and Asia.

The decline was, however, significant enough to send three of the four major US indices to weekly losses. For the Dow, S&P, and NASDAQ Composite, this week ended a string of five consecutive winners. The NASDAQ posted its fourth gain in the past six weeks. Even though Friday's 52-point loss on the NAZ was harrowing, the tech-laden index still closed within 100 points of its all-time high.

The issue of Turkey's lira crashing is made all the more intriguing by its geographical location, at the nexus of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. With a population of 80 million, the diverse ethnicity of its population has trended more toward Islam in recent years, troubling to the visionaries of the greater world's economies, especially since it is a NATO ally and member of the European Union, though it does not share the common euro currency.

Some European banks with heavy exposure may be at risk from the turmoil in the crossroads nation, though the financial concerns run side by side with political and military issues.

While stocks took a hit, the US dollar was bolstered, rising to 96.27, its highest level in over a year. That reaction translated to lower prices for crude oil. Gold and silver, along with other commodities, trended lower. Gold closed out the week at 1,219.20. Silver ended at 15.28, trending at levels not seen in two years.

In a general sense, the week served as a reminder to traders that despite optimistic sentiment, troubling, nettlesome issues are bubbling up just beneath the superficial veneer of global economies.

Dow Jones Industrial Average August Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
8/1/18 25,333.82 -81.37 -81.37
8/2/18 25,326.16 -7.66 -89.03
8/3/18 25,462.58 +136.42 +55.05
8/6/18 25,502.18 +39.60 +94.65
8/7/18 25,628.91 +126.73 +221.38
8/8/18 25,583.75 -45.16 +176.22
8/9/18 25,509.23 -74.52 +101.70
8/10/18 25,313.14 -196.09 -94.39

At the Close, Friday, August 10, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 25,313.14, -196.09 (-0.77%)
NASDAQ: 7,839.11, -52.67 (-0.67%)
S&P 500: 2,833.28, -20.30 (-0.71%)
NYSE Composite: 12,843.49, -113.17 (-0.87%)

For the Week:
Dow: -149.44 (-0.59%)
NASDAQ: +27.10 (+0.35%)
S&P 500: -7.07 (-0.25%)
NYSE Composite: -109.85 (-0.85%)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Glitch In the Bull Matrix; Crude Dives To Six-Week Low

If anyone can call today's range of 70 points - top to bottom on the Dow - trading, they'd need to be making it up on volume, as the old misnomer suggests. Today's market saw neither opportunity nor volume, so, the traders made the day up. After a quick dip to the lows of the day just after the first hour of trading (10:40 am EDT), the Dow and other indices went choppy, but without significant movement (welcome to late summer).

Nearing the end of the session, the Dow stood almost where it ended the previous day and made all of the losses into the close in the final half hour (welcome to day-trading).

Most of the action was inconsequential, as it has been the past few weeks.

Taking a quick look at the past four weeks (20 sessions) on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, 11 of the 20 saw gains or losses of less than 100 points. For perspective, a move of roughly 125 points would equate to 1/2 percentage. In other words, more than half of the sessions in the past month have been mostly range-bound and more noise than substance.

Today was no exception. Even though the Dow was the biggest percentage mover of the major indices, it only registered a move of -0.18%. The others closed at less than one tenth of a percent from where they started.

So trading? Hardly.

The only people making money in this market are the brokers, and they aren't making that much.

Commodities are perplexed. Crude futures fell dramatically. - WTI crude oil prices settled at six-week lows Wednesday after data showed U.S. crude stockpiles fell less than expected and U.S.-China trade tensions intensified.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange crude futures for September delivery fell 3.2% to settle at $66.94 a barrel, while on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent fell 3.26% to trade at $72.22 barrel.

Precious metals have become an afterthought for now. Gold and silver have been trading below where they were two years ago, trending in a tight range and looking likely to collapse into an even deeper abyss. An ounce of gold today will not even purchase a high end cell phone. It's looking pretty dismal for the gold and silver bugs, who have managed to hold onto the most abused financial assets for far too long. Their day may come, but that day may be a long way off.

Trading baseball cards or comic books might be more exciting and profitable than the current regime of stocks, bonds, and commodities. Those markets are too well-known and over-saturated. However, they are the backbone of global commerce, and, as such, will not be discarded lightly.

Dow Jones Industrial Average August Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
8/1/18 25,333.82 -81.37 -81.37
8/2/18 25,326.16 -7.66 -89.03
8/3/18 25,462.58 +136.42 +55.05
8/6/18 25,502.18 +39.60 +94.65
8/7/18 25,628.91 +126.73 +221.38
8/8/18 25,583.75 -45.16 +176.22

At the Close, Wednesday, August 8, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 25,583.75, -45.16 (-0.18%)
NASDAQ: 7,888.33, +4.66 (+0.06%)
S&P 500: 2,857.70, -0.75 (-0.03%)
NYSE Composite: 12,987.91, -11.68 (-0.09%)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Market Week In Review: December 10-16, 2016; Stocks Moribund, Silver Slammed, Oil, Banks Up

Highlighted by Wednesday's (Dec. 14) FOMC rate policy announcement, the week as a whole saw its fair share of ups and downs, mostly confined to intra-day movement, but eventually ending mildly positive, at least for stocks.

The Dow recorded a pair of all-time closing highs on Monday and Tuesday, but failed to reach for the stars after the Fed announced a 0.25% hike in the federal funds rate, the first in exactly one year. The move from 0.25-0.50 to 0.50-0.75 triggered a sharp sell-off in Wednesday afternoon trading, though stocks recovered nicely on Thursday and ended flat on Friday.

If the week was uneventful for stocks, it was not the same for commodities, particularly silver and gold, or for the US dollar, which reached nearly-unprecedented highs over 102.20 on the Bloomberg dollar index. As the dollar gained, the precious metals were slammed, gold losing over $30 top to bottom, but eventually leveling off at $1134.60 at Friday's finish, a loss of just $26 from the rate announcement. Silver took a much harder hit, dropping in price on the COMEX from $17.10 an ounce on Wednesday to end the week about a buck lower, at $16.07, a six percent loss.

Following OPEC's announced production cuts for 2017, crude spiked over $55 per ounce, but retreated during the week, still ahead somewhat at 53.03 as the week's trading closed out. Despite the strong dollar - supposedly a brake on oil prices - oil managed to ramp up to the highest price in three years.

Financials and industrials led the way for US stocks, not surprisingly continuing the Dow rally spurred forward by notables Goldman Sachs, 3M, Boeing, and General Electric. The Dow Industrial Average being the only major index to finish in the green for the week, markets continue to show strength in only the largest of large caps while smaller stocks are only being nibbled upon and, in the main, sold. The fracturing of markets into large leaders and small losers cannot bode well for the continuation of any meaningful rally going forward.

Naturally, with the Fed hiking rates, if only modestly, Treasuries were sold, but mainly on the short-duration issues. The five-year note broke through the mythical 2.00% threshold this week (2.05%), while the 10-year popped briefly above 2.60%, clinging close to that level as markets went dark for the weekend (2.57%). A flattening yield curve was evident as the 30-year bond remained steady, at 3.16%, pushing down the spread between fives and thirties to a unitary 1.11%.

All of this came against a backdrop of national news media hyping futile and largely-baseless claims by the US intelligence community that Russia hacked the 2016 presidential election, somehow making Vladimir Putin responsible for the election of Donald J. Trump (who will be formally elected by the Electoral College on Monday) and the demise of Hillary Clinton, the choice of the much-discredited leftist status quo.

The folly of the intelligence claims was completely ignored by Wall Street, and rightly so. The last thing investors need is a fresh injection of political skullduggery, after slogging through nearly two years of endless campaign rhetoric from all sides.

With a week left before Christmas, retailers have yet to ring bells of any kind, neither of alarm or of joyous peals f profit. The Christmas shopping experience over the past decade has morphed from mad dashes on Black Friday to a controlled button-pushing event on computers nationwide, as the internet has revolutionized the retail buying experience and forever changed the shopping mall landscape and holiday experience.

With two weeks remaining in 2016, it's likely that markets will respond to calmer views going forward though a sharp Santa Claus rally, taking the Dow beyond 20,000, is a distinct possibility over the final ten trading days of the year.

At The Close: Friday, December 16
Dow: 19,848.60, -3.64 (-0.02%)
NASDAQ: 5,437.29, -19.56 (-0.36%)
S&P 500: 2,258.20, -3.83 (-0.17%)
NYSE Composite: 11,122.44, -9.46 (-0.08%)

For the Week:
Dow: +86.65 (0.44%)
NASDAQ: -7.34 (-0.13%)
S&P 500: -1.46 (-0.06%)
NYSE Composite: -66.57 (-0.59%)

Monday, May 9, 2016

China's Commodity Carnage Crushes Crude, PMs

Overnight, China stocks fell as more poor economic data was presented, as hopes for a domestic recovery were sidelined by declining import and export data.

Additionally, commodity prices were negatively affected by government regulations which aim to crack down on speculation.

This translated into a very confused day for equity pros, though commodity traders apparently had the sell button surgically attached to their index fingers, with prices for oil down more than three percent while gold and silver took deep declines.

At the end of the day, stocks leveled off roughly where they began the day, though markets appear vulnerable to a downturn.

Monday's Mingle:
S&P 500: 2,058.69, +1.55 (0.08%)
Dow: 17,705.91, -34.72 (0.20%)
NASDAQ: 4,750.21, +14.05 (0.30%)

Crude Oil 43.24 -3.18% Gold 1,265.80 -0.06% EUR/USD 1.1382 -0.02% 10-Yr Bond 1.76 -1.07% Corn 369.25 -2.19% Copper 2.10 -0.19% Silver 17.07 -0.14% Natural Gas 2.10 -0.24% Russell 2000 1,118.25 +0.32% VIX 14.57 -1.02% BATS 1000 20,677.17 0.00% GBP/USD 1.4410 +0.03% USD/JPY 108.4335 -0.01%

Monday, December 30, 2013

Stocks Barely Moved on Low Volume Trading

The last days of the year are usually among the more sluggish in terms of trading volume, and this year is certainly no exception to the rule. The major indices were flat almost all session long, with the Dow ending up slightly positive due to some small buying interest in the latter part of the day.

The commodities complex was taken down another notch, with oil, gold, silver and most of the edible varieties lower.

It is difficult to read much of anything into any market moves at this point of the year, though there seems to be an overriding sense of smug complacency after one of the best years for stocks on record.

With the limited activity these past few days, a January rally out of the gate would surprise nobody, so expect stocks to languish tomorrow, but get a huge boost on the 2nd of January, the first official trading day of 2014.

DOW 16,504.29, +25.88 (+0.16%)
NASDAQ 4,154.20, -2.40 (-0.06%)
S&P 1,841.07, -0.33 (-0.02%)
10-Yr Note 98.09, +0.82 (+0.85%) Yield: 2.97%
NASDAQ Volume 1.27 Bil
NYSE Volume 2.21 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2747-1966
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 327-65
WTI crude oil: 99.29, -1.03
Gold: 1,203.80, -10.20
Silver: 19.62, -0.434
Corn: 423.50, -4.00

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Day After: Stocks take Biggest Losses of Year; Gold, Silver Smashed

There was no place to hide for investors of any stripe on the day after the Fed's dramatic announcement on Wednesday that it planned to reduce asset purchases later this year.

Stocks, bonds, and commodities were all priced lower, reflecting the possible reality that the world's economy would not be propped up indefinitely by the Federal reserve's money-printing schemes of quantitative easing (QE) and zero percent interest rate policy (ZIRP).

Following Wednesday afternoon's sharp selloff, Thursday quickly turned into a blood bath, with all of the major averages breaking through support at 50-day moving averages and precious metals dropping to levels not seen in roughly three years.

Godl was down nearly $100/ounce at 4:00 pm EDT, with traffic shifting from the Comex and Globex to Asian markets which are sure to feel the after-effects of the West's massive breakdown.

Despite the huge moves in equities, the major indices are still only down less than five percent from all-time closing highs made late in May, but the abruptness of the moves in all markets was an unexpected shock to portfolios everywhere.

The 10-year note hit a three-year high yield, but pulled back slightly to end the day at 2.39. The five-year also closed at multi-year highs of 1.26% and the 30-year bond finished at 3.48%, 33 basis points higher than a month ago.

Fallout from today's moves in the markets will be far-reaching and should be considered the beginning of a new paradigm, one in which interest rates will continue to rise as (and if) the economy continues to improve, a scenario not fully bought into by everyone. While housing has shown strength in recent months, higher interest rates can only slow the growth potential as home-buyers will be able to afford less for their money or may delay purchases altogether.

Gold and silver were especially hard hit, with gold finishing below the $1300 level and silver under $20 per ounce.

With no real economic data of note and earnings still two to three weeks away, the markets will have to find some kind of stabilizing catalyst in the final week of June or heading into the Independence Day holiday the first week of July, investors will find themselves truly independent... of profits, assets and good trading ideas.

Everybody knew this day of reckoning was coming, though few thought it would be so soon and appear with such ferocity. Trading volume was at the highest level of the year, significant in that tomorrow's quarterly options expirations may have been closed out earlier than most had planned, rendering tomorrow's triple-or-quadruple-witching day moot.

Advancing issues were dwarfed by decliners, which outpaced them 9-to-1. New lows exceeded new highs, 436-59.

The losses on major indices were the worst since November 7, 2012, the day after the re-election of Barack Obama. It's not just coincidence that stocks would take their biggest tumbles on the day after electing the worst president in American history (he's easily outdone GW Bush, already) and the day following the tactical blundering of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. We are a nation of sheep led by abject morons.

Dow 14,758.32, -353.87 (2.34%)
NASDAQ 3,364.64, -78.57 (2.28%)
S&P 500 1,588.19, -40.74 (2.50%)
NYSE Composite 8,996.35, -259.36 (2.80%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,961,153,875
NYSE Volume 5,276,584,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 685-5966
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 59-436
WTI crude oil: 94.94, -3.30
Gold: 1,278.00, -96.00
Silver: 19.56, -2.063

Monday, May 13, 2013

Slowly Goes Wall Street (Remember, It's May)

Equity markets were rather dull today, on exceptionally low volume - which is saying a lot, since volume left the building years ago.

Dull, boring, inconsequential, however, is how financial markets are supposed to be, or, that is at least how they used to be before the advent of personal computers, CNBC and individually-managed accounts. Today's go-go markets are driven by extra doses of liquidity, courtesy of the Fed (as much as readers hate reading that over and over and over again, the author hates having to mention it even more), HFTs, flash crashes, breaking news (why doesn't somebody fix it?), surprises, tweets, scandals, ponzi schemes, dotcoms, options, derivatives, swaps, repos and hot money flowing from carry trades into equities and back out again.

One can only wonder how many times the same money is re-invested, re-invented, re-created, re-hypothecated, recycled, rinsed and repeated. It seems sometimes that one need only a brokerage account and a pair of fast hands to tip-type your way into the wondrous world of high finance. If only such were true, we'd all be traders and multi-millionaires just like the guys on the infomercials telling you that NOW is the time to FLIP THAT HOUSE!

Alas, investing is boring and unexciting, and well it should be, though Americans, driven by media, need the big splash, the dazzle of bright lights and the promise of easy money to be enticed. Sadly for the marketeers and their media whores, more Americans play the ponies, gamble at casinos or play the lottery than invest in stocks, bonds or commodities. We've been programmed to be risk-takers and the stock market - try as it might - just seems to many to be a rigged game for rich guys in suits and ties and fancy women in shiny, tight-fitting business suits.

Thus, we have these dull markets, in which the major brokerages make war with each other via the computer algos, following each other into what eventually becomes a black hole, a void, a nonsensical, immaterial, valueless dump. That's what our stock markets have devolved into, especially after the crash of 2008-09. The major indices may have come all the way back in the four-to-five years since then, but all that money has been sucked out of the market by the brokerages and hedge funds via bonuses. It's common knowledge that the average investor usually gets screwed unless he/she is either very careful or very smart. There's just no way to win a rigged game. As the old adage goes, "if you're playing a game of poker and you don't know who the mark is, chances are it's probably you."

The general American public is simply not that stupid. After being burned by the high-tech Wall Street crooks in 2000, 2001 and again in 2008, they have not returned. Some maybe, but they're a small minority, mostly younger folks who don't know better or older people with money to burn, potentially. Paper losses still sting, and, if there's another severe downturn in the markets any time soon - an event long, long overdue, according to fundamentals - they'll be gone for good as well.

With all the scams, crimes and untold misdeeds that have become all-too-common on Wall Street - without, incidentally, any criminal prosecutions - is there any wonder that average people with money are still shy about investing in stocks? In a perverse way, thats why this market must and will likely continue to defy gravity and levitate to higher and higher levels: because another crash would destroy what little bit of confidence is left in the ultimate confidence game.

So, now that the banks are all sufficiently recapitalized (supposedly) and everything in America is just hunky-dorey, Wall Street may be looking itself in the mirror and wondering if they've taken too many scalps over the past few years. Maybe they'll keep the liquidity-driven, non-fundamental, irrational exuberance going for a while longer, but slowly, much more slowly.

Or is it time to turn it over again? Wash, rinse, repeat...

Dow 15,091.68, -26.81 (0.18%)
NASDAQ 3,438.79, +2.21 (0.06%)
S&P 500 1,633.77, +0.07 (0.00%)
NYSE Composite 9,437.17, -5.59 (0.06%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,605,809,375
NYSE Volume 3,124,652,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2673-3792
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 475-30
WTI crude oil: 95.17, -0.87
Gold: 1,434.30, -2.30
Silver: 23.70, +0.038

Friday, December 30, 2011

Rush for the Exits as 2011 Ends on Sour Note; Markets Flat for 2011; Predictions for 2012

Stocks traded in their usual tight ranges on the final day of trading for 2011, and just about every trader, investor and pundit seems to be in agreement that they year was a difficult one. At the end of the session, a rash of selling sent the major indices near their lows of the day. Volume was insignificant, but the late-day selling was an eye-opener, though possibly not materially a precursor to January, 2012.

Today's Closing Numbers:

Dow 12,217.56, -69.48 (0.57%)
NASDAQ 2,605.15, -8.59 (0.33%)
S&P 500 1,257.60, -5.42 (0.43%)
NYSE Composite 7,477.03, -8.60 (0.11%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,008,177,750
NYSE Volume 2,225,404,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2647-3004
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 178-47
WTI Crude oil: 98.83, 0.82
Gold: 1,566.80, +25.90
Silver: 27.92, +0.60

Of the four major indices, only two - the Dow and S&P 500 - returned positive results for the year.

Here's how 2011 stacked up:

Index Close 12/31/10 Close 12/30/11 Change
Dow 11577.51 12217.56 +640.05
NASDAQ 2652.87 2605.15 -47.72
S&P 500 1257.64 1,257.60 -0.04
NYSE Comp. 7964.02 7477.03 -486.99

Now, checking back on Money Daily's 2011 predictions, here, here and here, we can summarize the results.

We said the overriding theme would be VALUE. With the emphasis now on dividend-paying stocks, we can give ourselves a half thumbs-up, though the real word for the year, especially the second half, was VOLATILITY.

We mentioned that "US employment situation is not going to get materially better in 2011..." A+ on that call.

Housing: "The expectation is for residential housing prices to drop another 6-10% during the year, with larger decreases in the NorthEast and MidWest." Bingo.

FOREX: "The US dollar will fare well against almost all other competing currencies. Destruction of the world's reserve currency takes time, and a year is just a small part of the breaking tableau." Another spot on analysis.

Eventually, price will meet demand, or lack thereof, and some equilibrium found before riots and starvation become the norm. Your best bets for 2011 are still gold and silver, with the latter being the favored instrument as it seeks to re-establish the 15-1 gold-silver ratio. Both should appreciate well in excess of 15%, so $1500 gold should be an easy target and silver may bust right through $40 per ounce in rapid manner.

As far as oil is concerned, apart from the rigged and artificial aspects of how it is traded, crude prices cannot exceed $100 for very long, if they even reach them. Absolute price inflation will crimp demand, and, thus, set the wheel back to "go" again, so don't expect oil prices to skyrocket or decline much at all. Stable prices would be best for all parties (except those selling the stuff, short term), and that's what we may get. There's about a 30% chance oil prices actually fall on slack demand, back under $75, but not much further, though a price around $60 per barrel would go a long way toward global growth, though the supply/demand numbers simply don't add up well for that to be much more than a wing and many prayers.

Despite a serious decline in the latter months of 2011, gold and silver held up well, despite blatant price manipulation by central banks. The call on oil was pretty much correct.


The following are the predicted trading ranges for the major indices in 2011:
Dow: 9250-12000
NASDAQ: 2100-2750
S&P 500: 875-1300
NYSE Comp: 5650-8100

Not a bad showing, though the predicted lows were never met.

Money Daily also made some comments regarding the bond market, inflation, social trends and politics which were generally in the right direction. They can be found here.

Now, on to predictions for 2012 (very briefly):

Stocks: At the end of 2012, after a protracted decline though to the elections, the markets should get a bounce and end somewhere around:
Dow: 10,700
NASDAQ: 2350
S&P: 1050
NYSE Composite: 6780

Overall, it's going to be another challenging year for stocks, with high unemployment, the collapsing Euro and high tensions in the Middle East among the factors that will keep investor confidence low.

Commodities: Since gold and silver fell off the cliff at the end of 2011, they should rebound smartly and be among the best investments of the year. Oil will continue to fluctuate between $75 and $100, though passage of a bill allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built or a war with Iran (very high probability) could push prices out of that range; lower in the former instance, much higher in the latter.

Bonds are going to remain in their tight ranges, since the Fed has already announced they'd keep the federal funds rate unchanged though 2013.

FOREX: Short the Euro, Long US dollar, Aussie and Canada.

Politics will keep the economy from gaining very much traction until the election. The plan by the schemers behind the candidates is to keep the economy stumbling along in order to usher in a new Republican era. Whether or not they succeed will depend on a vast sea of changing factors, though the most pressing will still be the economy, followed by Iran, Obama-care and voting right. The Republicans can't win with Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney. A Ron Paul candidacy could make life a little too interesting for the incumbent and Paul would be a great president, exactly what's needed in the US at this time of perpetual crisis. Paul would change the nature of US foreign policy, reform entitlements and get back to the rule of law.

While it's a near certainty that the Republican party chiefs will do everything in their power to keep him from winning the nomination, he could do it. Otherwise, a third party candidacy by Dr. Paul would ensure an Obama landslide.

Unless Ron Paul is in the race, Obama will win a second term.

That's it. See you in 2012. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

LIQUIDATION DAY: Stocks, Oil, Gold, Silver All Whacked

If one is expert at reading the market's tea leaves, today was an opportunity to test your skills on just what the massive, liquidation-style selling in commodities was foretelling.

Since there wasn't any news from Europe upon which to trade, perhaps it had something to do with yesterday's non-eventful Fed policy announcement. Many of the larger market participants were hoping the Fed would announce some new iteration of QE, and, since there was none, decided - as of yesterday at about 2:30 pm - to begin liquidating assets in as orderly a manner possible without spooking the markets.

If that was the case - and it's probably not - the markets got a bit spooky in today's trading, though the real action was in commodities, especially oil, gold and silver, which were pounded down so hard it seemed that some of the world's most valuable assets were quickly becoming worthless.

The reality of the matter is probably much simpler, though unseen to most casual observers. Since last week, when the ECB and EU met on the last two days of the week, stocks have been rending lower, and today came the margin calls for anybody long equities and stretched out. There's also the much larger matter of imminent danger in Europe, either in the form of a complete and final Greek default, a bailout of Germany's CommerzBank or perhaps the ultimate collapse of the Euro as a currency of any value, the continent's plaything falling below the critical 1.30 level against the US Dollar today.

Libor rates have been on the rise recently and spreads are also widening, exacerbating the already tense liquidity condition for Europe-based banks. China and India are seeing growth stall out, mostly due to the dire conditions in Europe, but also due to internal stresses.

Perhaps it's the combination of all these bad things happening at once, which is not coincidental in today's globally-connected financial universe. When tough times come to one of the major developed countries or regions, like the Euro-zone, the ripples are felt around the world, and surely, judging by the weight and depth of today's commodity rout, something very fundamentally wrong is about to commence, because massive outflows from gold, especially, usually signal a liquidation event. And liquidation events usually precede solvency events, which, for most of the Southern European nations, is at the heart of the matter.

Gold was down massively, but was easily outdone on a percentage basis by its fellow PM cousin, silver, which broke through support levels and finished in New York down nearly 7.5 percent. So much for safe harbors! Crude oil, about which just about anyone who drives a car wishes it were at $65 per barrel instead of $100, took a deep slide as put contracts at a $65 strike in latter 2012 continue to pile up, potentially pushing the commodity futures into backwardation as the world supply has quickly become a glut on soft demand.

As far as stocks are concerned, the sense is that a lot of traders are closing their books for the year, locking in whatever profits they might have and selling off losers, as the trend in new highs vs. new lows would indicate.

US indices are just about at break even for the year, which is quickly coming to an end, with just 12 trading sessions remaining in 2011. The Dow Jones Industrials, the most resilient of the US indices, is up less than 3% on the year, or 246 points. The S&P and NASDAQ are already in the red to the tune of a 3-4% decline on the year and NYSE Composite takes the cake, down 780 points since last December 31, a nearly 10% decline.

Sure enough, something very disturbing to financial markets is primed for implosion. It's probably Europe, and it's probably going to be very bad and not fixable. Meanwhile, back on Wall Street, the masters of the universe are searching the skies for a jolly fat man on a sleigh pulled by reindeer in hopes that the highly-anticipated and nearly-annual event of a Christmas rally will get them back somewhere close to even by year's end. As for the highs reached back in April, forget them. Those levels may not be seen again for another 10 to 20 years.

Special shout-out to DanK, who turns a youthful 59 today. Hey, another 1/2 year and Dan can start liquidating his IRA without penalty. There is a silver lining, even though silver ain't exactly what it used to be, say, eight months ago.

Dow 11,823.48, -131.46 (1.10%)
NASDAQ 2,539.31, -39.96 (1.55%)
S&P 500 1,211.82, -13.91 (1.13%)
NYSE Composite 7,184.75, -92.87 (1.28%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,794,074,500
NYSE Volume 4,233,398,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1784-3900
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 72-256 (three straight days in the red, and widening)
WTI crude oil: 94.95, -5.19
Gold: 1,586.90, -76.20
Silver: 28.94, -2.33

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Researching Online Brokerages Worth the Effort

While many retail investors have fled from highly volatile equity markets and outflows from equity mutual funds have reached historic proportions (ICI reported that investor holdings in stock mutual funds decreased by 9.5% in September), the ongoing zero interest rate policy of the Federal Reserve has lowered the return on Treasuries and all other fixed asset classes likewise offer returns that barely, if at all, keep pace with inflation.

As stocks made huge moves in October, many retail investors missed out, and it's likely that more will pile into the rally, sensing that the problems stemming from Europe have passed and it's once again safe to invest in stocks. That rationale may or may not prove correct, but, whatever the case, being at least partially invested in stocks is a solid strategy in good times or bad.

If one is inclined to jump in, the easiest way is to plug right in from the comfort of home or office through one of the many online brokerages available. The range of online brokerage products and services has expanded greatly since the infancy of the internet back in the late 1990s, and it pays to research the various options available.

According to a recent ICI report, households with internet access owning mutual funds is nearly universal, with ninety-one percent of all households owning mutual funds have internet access with ninety-eight percent aged 35-44 connected to the internet from their homes.

Additionally, the report goes on to say that eighty-four percent of mutual fund–owning households with internet access went online for financial purposes, such as to check their bank or investment accounts, obtain investment information, or buy or sell investments, though only nineteen percent used the internet for trading purposes, so there is still plenty of room for more home use of online brokerages.

What any good online brokerage provides in the way of online brokerage products and services starts with a stable and easy-to-use interface, simplifying the process of buying or selling stocks, ETFs or mutual funds. Beyond that, one would be advised to seek a brokerage that does not have maintenance or inactivity fees, offers free dividend reinvestment plans and options trading at a low price per contract.

Other features may include free research tools such as screeners, tracking and historical comparisons, but fees are by far the main differentiator of online brokerages. Many offer packages of free trades for new users, low cost stock trades and the ability to have broker-assisted trades for special circumstances. Fees for mutual fund trading should be minimal to free. For users who wish to trade on margin, rates vary widely and should be investigated thoroughly. The ability to transfer funds without hassle over the internet, to and from a personal checking account should be standard. Low minimum requirements, both for an initial funding and ongoing transfers is also a must.

A number of brokerages have expanded beyond stocks and mutual funds to forex, commodities and bonds, so an astute investor should prepare a list of requirements and priorities before opening any online account.

Stocks inherently have risk, so there's no reason to add to the risk and frustration by choosing an online brokerage that doesn't fulfill all of one's needs.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Third Quarter a Stinker for Stocks; NASDAQ, SP Down 14%

The Markets

The third quarter officially ended today on September 30, and, unlike the usual quarter-ending, window-dressing ramp job, stocks suffered through their worst day of the week, in a month and quarter that was one of the worst of recent memory - and there have been some bad ones, recently.

The Dow Jones Industrials ended the quarter off more than 12%. The S&P and NASDAQ were rocked lower by 14%.

In simple terms, anybody in an index fund with $100,000 at the end of June, now has somewhere between $86,000 and $88,000. That may not sound like much, but $12-14,000 is roughly equivalent to the wages for a minimum-wage worker for a year. That's not a good sign for the bottom income earners in American society, because it means that the "wealth creators" so often cited by Republican office-seekers, have one minimum wage job less than they can create, should they now choose to part with some of that hard-earned (and easily lost) cash.

On the day, stocks started lower, stabilized, but fell off a veritable cliff into the close. There was no window dressing, no PPT push, no ETF re-balancing or anything to keep stocks afloat into the close. Nobody seemed willing to take significant positions in stocks, even though the 4th quarter is historically the best for stocks. The levels of gloom and doom rival those of the disastrous 4th quarter of 2008, when the global financial crisis was first realized and stocks gyrated lower and lower and lower.

Not only were stocks affected negatively during the month and quarter, but most commodities also fell by extraordinary percentages, especially gold and silver, which were whacked roughly 16 and 25% respectively. There was no place to hide for even the most conservative investors. Yields on Treasuries fell like rocks off a precipice. Bond yields for the 2-year, 5-year and 10-year note fell 40-45% in the quarter. The benchmark 10-year note closed out the quarter at a yield of 1.90%. The 30-year bond was the best performer of an ugly bunch, with yields falling only 35% since the end of June.

Crude oil was down 17% in the quarter, though gas prices at the pump have barely matched the decline. With gas prices nearly $4.00 a gallon at the beginning of summer, the average price - if 17% is the expected decline - should be around $3.35, though the AAA Fuel Gauge Report has the national average at $3.44. For perspective on how high real gasoline prices are, the price at the same time last year was a celebratory $2.69.

In company news, Eastman Kodak (EK), once a proud member of the Dow 30, fell 54% on the day amid reports that the company had hired the law firm Jones Day to discuss reorganization plans or a bankruptcy filing. Shares of Eastman Kodak dropped 91 cents to close at 0.78, an historic low.

Bank of America (BAC) plans to begin charging debit card users a $5 monthly fee in January, 2012, due to changes in the amounts banks can charge merchants per debit card use. BAC finished the day 23 cents lower, at 6.12.

Big corporate bankruptcies are dead ahead, likely to commence in the fourth quarter and accelerate through the first three quarters of 2012. Third quarter earnings reports kick off on October 11, when Alcoa (AA) reports after the bell.

Thank goodness for the baseball playoffs and football. Yeesh!

Dow 10,913.38 240.60 (2.16%)
NASDAQ 2,415.40 65.36 (2.63%)
S&P 500 1,131.42 28.98 (2.50%)
NYSE Compos 6,791.65 183.26 (2.63%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,081,539,875.00
NYSE Volume 5,323,945,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1442-5118
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 31-515 (look out below!)
WTI crude oil: 78.65, -3.47
Gold: 1623.80, +7.90
Silver: 29.94, -0.73

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Armageddon Arrives in Commodities; Stocks Next

As has been the ongoing motif of this blog for many months, the grand Bernanke experiment is now experiencing some of the nasty side effects. Today's action in commodities, particularly silver and crude oil, came as a stark reminder that leveraged positions can go very, very badly in very, very short spans of time.

It was just last Friday that silver stood at the precipice of $50/ounce, approaching the all-time high. As of this writing it is now trading on the spot market at $34.76, a drop of 30% over just four days. WTI crude oil futures were at $116 on Monday, and today it closed on the NYMEX at $99.80. All those sheiks and oil robber-barons drooling over $4/gall gas across the USA can now wipe their chins with their sell tickets.

Stocks were also not immune from the liquidity trap. The Dow was down as many as 200 points around midday, but recovered a bit into the close. Still, leveraged bets (margin) on selected stocks have finally begun to display inherent risk and the carnage has only begun.

What set off today's massive selling spree were a number of unrelated events which combined to turn the trading day into an economic tornado, tearing through asset classes like a Midwestern twister. First, a series of margin tightenings on silver speculation that has been ongoing from Sunday night began the unwinding process. Silver had been hammered for three straight days without buyers on the downside. Then, with the 8:30 am release of some truly horrible weekly unemployment claims, the spring was coiled tighter.

Initial claims for the most recent week (last week in April) came in at 474,000, the highest since August of 2010, off expectations for a number around 400,000. So much for Hope and Change, Bernanke's Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) and QE2. The smart money has made its way out of Dodge and the rest of the pilgrims are scrambling to leave town with whatever they can salvage.

While commodities were being ravaged one after another, stocks were salvaged from the brunt of the storm, though they eventually faced capitulation and will likely be under pressure from the opening bell on Friday, after the April non-farm payroll report goes public at 8:30 am EDT. Following the unemployment number, expectations have been ratcheted lower. The expected number of new jobs created during the month was supposed to be around 200,000, though that's been trimmed to 185,000 and even lower by some analysts. Anything under 185,000 will produce a bloodbath. Even anything over that will likely induce more selling, on a faster pace than today's, because this is a liquidity trap, and economic numbers - good, bad or indifferent - may not matter at all.

The winners on the day were the US dollar, which majestically made its move all the way from a low of 72.81 (about the point at which Mssrs. Bernanke and Geithner were having accidents in their pantaloons) to a close at 74.08, a move of roughly 1.5%, which, in the world of currencies, is enormous. This created a vicious, self-reinforcing virtuous loop, with the dollar's rise causing commodity margin calls, and a risk-off scramble in stocks.

The other winner was bonds, which explains much. Bonds are the lifeblood of the Ponzi scheme between the Treasury, Primary Dealers and the Federal Reserve which gave us the illusion of prosperity against the backdrop of an eroding dollar. Bumping right up to the debt ceiling, the Fed intervened in a very big way today - behind the scenes, of course - to dampen risk appetite and make fixed income investments the choice for the foreseeable future. They had to, being backed into an untenable position.

It was truly a momentous day, one which we've been preparing you for with our reminders all week that the narrative was changing with the (fictitious) slaying of Osama bin Laden. And now, change has come to us all.

Dow 12,584.17, -139.41 (1.10%)
NASDAQ 2,814.72, -13.51 (0.48%)
S&P 500 1,335.10, -12.22 (0.91%)
NYSE Composite 8,397.40, -109.21 (1.28%)

Advancing issued were submerged by decliners overall, 4183-2412. The NASDAQ recorded 48 new highs and 52 new lows, the second straight day of high-low reversal. On the NYSE, there were 100 new highs and 36 new lows, mostly due to the elevated levels reached recently. It's hard to imagine the daily lows not overtaking the highs within the next week. Volume was magnificently higher as sellers sold with both hands.

NASDAQ Volume 2,241,177,750
NYSE Volume 5,510,796,500

Crude oil took an earth-shattering drop of over 8%, losing $9.44, to finish at $99.80. The selling is certainly far from over as the tempering of emotions in the Middle East after the slaying of OBL will surely push prices back to some level of sanity and take out the majority of the risk premium and speculative fever.

Gold, which had been holding up relatively well with respect to other precious metals, finally took a beating, losing $43.40 (nearly 3%), to its current trading level of $1473.10. Silver took the worst of it again, falling another $4.73, to $34.66, but there is a silver lining for the faithful in precious metals. Most of the true believers - who only hold physical metal and use the futures and ETFs only as a hedge - have a cost basis below $20/ounce.

Technically, they've lost nothing, and could still sell right here for a hefty profit. But they won't, and are actually looking at this momentous correction as a buying opportunity, hoping to snatch up more metal at what they perceive as bargain-basement prices. The general strategy is to buy once everything has more or less settled out. Nobody is really worried about catching the absolute volume, and a few days of upwards trending will not entice the hardiest of the breed. They will wait until a bottom is confirmed. Like love, they'll know it when they see it. The same strategy holds more or less true for gold bugs worldwide.

The holders of gold and silver will eventually rule the world as we approach - at breakneck speed - the eventual destruction of the global fiat money regime and the likely collapse of more than a few governments. What has happened in Greece, Iceland, Ireland and Portugal will eventually visit the shores of Japan, the USA, Great Britain, France and even China.

We are still reeling from the catastrophe of the housing bubble and collapse and the general liquidity and solvency crisis of 2008. The measures taken by the Federal Reserve and other central banks has been to throw more money at the credit monster they created, but it has resulted in extreme imbalances everywhere. The thinking at the top of government is focused already on the elections of 2012. The betting is that the US government and the financial community will have a time making it there unscathed.

If this looks anything like 2008 to those wizened enough to learn from history, those people would be on the right track, except, this time, it's likely to be worse and without any magic bullets, because the Fed is all out of them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stocks Take Another Hit, But, Why?

Major US indices fell for a fourth consecutive session - with the exception of the Dow, which eked out a 1-point gain on Monday - and there are likely several reasons why this downtrend has continued and actually accelerated, with the biggest drop coming today.

After all, it is the beginning of earnings season, and first quarter results are expected to be pretty good. But is the market looking down the road, or could investors be wary of margin squeezes caused by runaway commodity prices, or consumer depression caused by over-the-top gas prices?

One thing's for sure: the winter was a long and cold one, and nobody got a break from high heating bills in a majority of the heating states of the Northeast and Midwest. That certainly couldn't have helped household budgets much and a Gallup poll released today suggests that Americans are as displeased with current and future conditions as they were this time in 2009 and through the middle of 2010.

The poll showed that only 33% of respondents in March think the economy is "getting better." That's a drop from 36% in February and 41% in January.

Another possibility is that the now-month-old tragedy in Japan is also worsening, as officials raised the level of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident to 7, on a par with the disaster at Chernobyl, 25 years ago.

Perhaps the stock market wasn't really sold on the late-night budget deal reached on Friday night (We had expected this was only a continuing resolution and were right) and the potential that the deal could fall apart. Details are just beginning to trickle out that the cuts amount to much less than the $38.5 billion reported and that members of both parties, in bouth houses of congress, are displeased.

At Business Insider, Joe Weisenthal reports that the government might still shut down, this Friday. The AP has details from just where the phantom cuts are coming.

So, here we go again? The 2011 fiscal year ends September 30 (about 5 1/2 months from now), and the budget is still being trimmed, debated and flayed? This is no way to run a country, especially one as on the financial ropes as the USA. Get ready for more drama from the queens on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

The Hill has more detail on the cuts, which will go to a House floor vote on Thursday. The legislation is known as H.R. 1473, for those wishing to keep score at home.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned possibilities and potentialities, the Fed's ending of thier policy of handing over free money to Primary Dealers in June, via QE2, might be on the minds of many in the investment world. When that nearly $100 billion a month stops, so might Wall Street's 2-year-long party. In a related note, the Fed released it's schedule of banker handouts (POMO) for the remainder of April through May 12.

All of this news added up to some big drops in the equity markets, centered around just about 1% overall. Commodities were hit even harder (see below).

Dow 12,263.58, -117.53 (0.95%)
NASDAQ 2,744.79, -26.72 (0.96%)
S&P 500 1,314.16, -10.30 (0.78%)
NYSE Composite 8,360.46, -85.31 (1.01%)

Declining issues clobbered advancers again, 4883-1663, a nearly 3:1 ratio, the largest of the past four sessions. On the NASDAQ, new lows overtook new highs, 56-39, but it was the other way around on the stubborn NYSE, with new highs holding a slim edge over new lows, 41-20. A similar pattern was witnessed in March, with the new lows overtaking new highs on both indices for 4-6 days, but the supposed correction was cut short by a surprise rally that now seems to have run up against resistance and is failing fast. Volume was not spectacular, and would most accurately be described as moribund. Another few days of this, and another row over continuing funding to the federal government could put the kibosh on 2011 gains, short and long term.

NASDAQ Volume 1,798,176,500
NYSE Volume 4,735,433,500

Oil took another massive hit in price on Tuesday, with WTI crude futures falling $3.67, to $106.25, and even lower after NYMEX trading closed. That's a two-day drop of $6.52 per barrel and motorists can only hope the trend continues. There are a lot of speculators in the market, and estimates range from them making up anywhere from 10-40% of the oil price.

Of course, in a real world, with real world consequences coming from an actually-functioning Justice Department, that would otherwise be known as price-fixing. Since the Attorney General hasn't been seen in six or eight months, and is generally regarded as the worst ever, don't expect anything like even an investigation to commence any time soon. We hear the name of the AG is Eric Holder, but nobody's been able to confirm that.

Along with oil, a good number of food and grain commodities are coming off their highs. Corn, soybeans and wheat were down the most, with lean hogs and live cattle following the trend. Gold slipped $14.50, to $1,453.60. Silver fell 55 cents, to settle in at $40.07 per ounce.

It has been said that one day does not make a trend, and there's truth in that, but maybe four straight declines in major indices are significant enough for somebody to take notice. It's no secret that the US system is largely bankrupt and operating on fumes and smoke, so it might be just a matter of time for the markets to correct. Naturally, the meddling Fed has kept the rally going with oodles of cash, and just to be sure, they gave some to the wives of some already-rich bankers, as Matt Taibbi reports for Rolling Stone.

Fair warning: reading Taibbi's latest story might lead to vomiting or breaking of inanimate objects. Strap in securely, as this story reveals just how corrupt and unbalanced the entire bailout process has been and continues to be.

Paging Ron Paul, paging Ron Paul. The country is calling on you to run for president.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fed Plans Not Going So Smoothly; Harrisburg, PA on the Edge

Since the Federal Reserve announced last Wednesday that they would be injecting $600-900 billion into the monetary system through outright purchases of Treasury bond issuance, the cacophony of protest and derision has been boisterous and unrelenting. Chairman Ben Bernanke's purposeful nuking of the value of the world's reserve currency, the US Dollar, has raised eyebrows and voices from Shanghai to Sao Paulo as global finance leaders attempt to adjust their currencies to meet the expected influx of freshly-printed greenbacks.

Along with complaints from the global financial community, voices inside the United States have also weighed in, mostly condemning the action as unneeded, unwanted and eventually, inflationary.

What's worse, it doesn't seem to be working very well, as evidenced by today's 30-year bond auction, which saw lowered levels of participation and the highest yield in five months, exactly the opposite of what the liquidity tsunami was supposed to accomplish.

It's likely too early to tell, as the Fed has only today set down their Tentative Outright Treasury Operation Schedule, or TOTO, which as we all know, was the name of Dorothy's little dog in the movie, "The Wizard of Oz," an appropriate, if not slightly cynical metaphor for Mr. Bernanke standing behind a curtain pulling the levels and strings of the global economy.

Interested investors may want to print out the Fed's schedule as it should provide some guidance into which days would be better to buy or sell (warning: the Fed does not want you to sell) stocks. Those days with "operations" should be the prime selling days, and those without, opportunities to buy as the market will, no doubt, be on hold or falling. So much for free, fair and open markets. The Fed's interventionist policies have made Wall Street even more of a casino than it already was, and now they're using stocked decks and loaded die.

Things got off to another bad start for Bennie and his buddies this morning, as stocks backslid right out of the open, with the Dow falling 91 points, to its low of the day, shortly after 10:00 am. After that, however, with the banks holding firmly to the silver shorts which torpedoed a wicked rally in the precious metals late yesterday, it was once again off to the races, though the markets' pace more resembled that of a snail than a thoroughbred.

After two days of losses, the markets shrugged off middling new unemployment claims at 435,000 (below estimates, but sure to be revised higher next week), and, having convinced the sixteen suckers still trading via their e-trade accounts that the direction was negative, began the process of fleecing the sheep, all led to slaughter by the Fed-Wall Street money crunching machine.

Dow 11,357.04, +10.29 (0.09%)
NASDAQ 2,578.78, +15.80 (0.62%)
S&P 500 1,218.71, +5.31 (0.44%)
NYSE Composite 7,747.46, +45.15 (0.59%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,023,686,125
NYSE Volume 5,268,140,500

Advancing issues turned the tide on decliners, 4158-2329. New highs numbered only 362, a notable change from the kinds of numbers reported over the past three weeks. Only 49 stocks made new lows. Volume was right about average on a day in which the dollar was up against most other currencies.

So, the Fed may be getting what it wants when it turns on the money spigot on Friday with the first of 18 monetary injections. They'll keep at it every day except the days immediately before and after Thanksgiving, for a total of about $105 billion, through December 9. If that doesn't get stocks flying higher than a redneck on meth, nothing will, and that's just the Fed's point, to make asset values climb, staving off the dastardly deflation, a condition that would suit most Americans just fine. A big THANK YOU VERY MUCH to Mr. Bernanke from the middle class.

Most commodity prices are already much higher than they were just two months ago, when Bernanke first began to whisper loudly about the now-imminent liquidity push. Cotton, corn, wheat and almost all foodstuffs have been on a tear, so much so that the exchanges have been slapping on tighter margin requirements for many.

Crude oil was up $1.09 on the day, to a 2010 high of $87.81. Just in time for Christmas, the Fed's policies are about to send gas prices through the roof. Thanks again, Mr. Ben! After yesterday's drubbing, gold gained $10.70, to $1403.40 at last print. Silver also caught a bid, trading at $27.14, up 19 cents on the day.

Meanwhile in the aftermath of mortgage insurer Ambac's bankruptcy filing Monday (and delisting as of today),the city of Harrisburg, PA, the state capitol, hired the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore to advise on a potential municipal bankruptcy, which has been rumored for many months. with the fall of Ambac, the dominoes may begin tumbling, first among other mortgage insurers, then to municipalities and into credit default swaps mostly in the hands of the nation's largest banks.

Considering the timing of the Fed's dramatic money creation scheme, might these funds be nothing more than a backdoor backstop to the banks again? They certainly were aware of Ambac's condition and that of the handful of other illiquid mortgage insurers. If this were the case, then all bets are off concerning market gains, as the money will never see the light of day. It will be parceled out among the nation's greatest criminals to cover their corrosive and rapidly depreciating swaps and guarantees between each other.

While Ambac's portfolio may be only a few billion short, the forward effect is to cause other defaults along the chain, and once the genie gets out of the unregulated CDS bottle, there's likely no putting her back in. The cascading effect of illiquid assets turning enterprises wholly insolvent could happen within split seconds, without warning, and it's already apparent that the band-aids applied to the insolvent banks thus far have not proved remedial.

Higher interest rates on Treasuries going forward will be a sure sign that the financial structure is about to topple, with over $600 TRILLION of notional exposure ready to come crashing down. This is the conditions under which we watch our financial markets these final days of 2010. If Bernanke's plan does not cause stocks to rise, interest rates to fall and general inflation (bad enough), it's a safe bet that financial reckoning day may come sooner rather than later.

Tracing out the scenario, the Fed would probably not allow everything to simply collapse in a heap. After a few days of severe declines in the stock markets, highlighted by drops in financial stocks, the president would likely call a bank holiday stretching anywhere from a week to a month in an effort toward calmness. Unfortunately, the effect of that would be wide-eyed panic, as most people would be without cash and maybe denied access to credit cards as well.

After that, who knows? Emergency powers? Martial law? A complete overhaul of the Fed and Treasury? The ripples would be worldwide.

It's the nightmare scenario, but in the current climate, the possibility of a massive failure is possible and palpable.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Train Wreck Keeps a-Rollin'

Keeping one eye on the US economy and the other on US equity markets is something like watching two train wrecks in slow motion, wondering which will fall completely off the rails first. On any given day, stocks seem like the sure-fire winner, destined to send a signal to the broader economy. And when that occurs, ka-boom! Everything goes at once.

Today's stock action was actually quite silly and pointless. Down at the open, with a quick-strike rally up to the release of the Chicago PMI (down sharply from 62.3 in July 56.7 in August) and the Consumer Confidence Index from the Conference Board (up to 53.5 in August after a reading of 51.0 in July). Both bits of data were buoyed by the pre-market announcement of the Case-Shiller 20-city Index, which showed a quite remarkable improvement of 4.23% in June.

Release of the August FOMC minutes at 2:00 pm apparently rattled the market, sending all indices lower after maintaining gains through most of the session. Odd, because most of what was contained in the minutes has already been hashed out and priced into stocks. Nothing in the report shed any new light on Fed policy or the health of the economy (which everyone, even the Fed, knows is bad).

What's really interesting about the movement of the stock market is that it spent the first half hour and the final 1 1/2 hours of trading in negative territory. Ongoing is a rather stout defense of three positions: 10,000 on the Dow, 2100 on the NASDAQ, and the furtive 1040 on the S&P 500, but today's action, and, the overall market dynamics of the past three weeks, having a dearth of upside momentum indicate that those levels will likely not hold, are mere temporary hope points for the ignorant, almost sure to be taken out by Wednesday morning's ADP private employment report for August and further downside when August non-farm payroll data is released on Friday.

Some unsightly buying in the final few minutes of trading brought the Dow and S&P back from the dead, but was not enough to move the NASDAQ above the unchanged mark. Imagine your entire net worth and future pension all riding on the market-closing whims of Wall Street robber barons who are interested only in perception of the market rather than reality. That's precisely the position most American workers find themselves in today, never questioning the soundness of their investments or the trustworthiness of the marketplace.

It shouldn't surprise anyone, as American workers subjected themselves to slavery long ago, by acceptance of the income and payroll tax system. A man or woman is paid wages for his or her work. Taxing that output is nothing more than state-sponsored slavery, unconstitutional and immoral, but accepted nationwide. The tax burden on Americans is the single most detrimental factor to prosperity. Add up "contributions" in the forms of Social Security, Medicare, payroll tax, state income tax, sales tax, hidden excise tax (gas, cigarettes, etc.) and real property tax and the burden is over 50% of earned income for many Americans.

The US stock market, like the government, is neither fair nor impartial. Those who toil for taxable wages and invest in unfathomable securities are bound to meet their rightful destiny at some point. For some, the stock market collapse of 2008 was enough, and they have exited the system. For every one of those, however, are 100 to 500 more who toil in utter ignorance and fear. Despite countless examples to the contrary, they still believe that state and federal governments and Wall Street can be trusted for their well-being and general welfare. And on welfare is where many of them will eventually retire.

The month of August turned out to be a bummer for holders of paper wealth in equities. The S&P led the way with a 6.80% decline, followed by the NASDAQ, with a 6.24% drop, and finally, the Dow, which shed a mere 4.32%. Ah, that $100,000 earmarked for retirement shrank to around $95,000, depending on your investment preferences. Lovely.

Dow 10,014.72, +4.99 (0.05%)
NASDAQ 2,114.03, -5.94 (0.28%)
S&P 500 1,049.33, +0.41 (0.04%)
NYSE Composite 6,704.15, +8.87 (0.13%)

Advancing issues held sway over decliners by a narrow margin, 3337-3027. New highs edged new lows, 256-254. Volume was a little better than the normal moribund average of the past four weeks.

NASDAQ Volume 1,839,803,500
NYSE Volume 5,044,525,000

Commodities told a much different story than the "no change" stance taken by stocks. Crude oil for October delivery fell by nearly 4%, losing $2.78, to close at $71.92. Precious metals, on the other hand, were priced substantially higher, as faith in fiat-based money continued to erode. Gold gained $11.20, to $1,248.30, and silver, which has been a star of late, gained 36 cents, to $19.40.

The world is not coming to an abrupt end, though American society is undergoing a radical transformation, from a spendthrift, credit-driven society to one concerned more with bare essentials. We have more today than ever before, but most of it is either mortgaged, financed or overvalued and those who fail to amend their profligate ways shall be burdened with unpayable debts and a life of squalor.

Our national condition may take years to unwind, but there's no doubt that more pain awaits us all. If avoidance of unpleasantness is the key to happiness, Americans have been forewarned. Partisan rhetoric notwithstanding, we face more uncertainty and calamity right now than at any time in the past 60 years.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Today, the Collapse Began; Cash Reigns Supreme

While the headline numbers for today's trading on the major indices weren't all that startling, but the largely unnoticed event - an indicator which I watch like a hawk and report on daily - occurred today, as the new high - new low metrics completely reversed, with new lows taking the edge over new highs.

Of all the indicators which investment analysts cite in their mountains of research and charts, this simple indicator has proven to be the absolute best and most accurate for determining both bull and bear market direction, long term, and isn't long term what investing is supposed to be about, anyway?

The first time I made note of this simple indicator was when it turned negative in August, 2007, an innocuous time for many, but the actual beginning of the still-ongoing financial crisis. New lows took the edge from the new highs in that month and did not give up the advantage - on a day-by-day basis - until April of 2009, a span of some 20 months, a spectacular indicator, to be sure!

There were a handful of days in which there were more posted new highs than new lows, but through those 20 months, new lows led new highs nearly every trading day. When they turned over last year, with new highs surpassing new lows on a daily basis, I was slow to comprehend its meaning and power, but finally caught on in June as the markets embarked upon a truly breathtaking nine-month rally.

Today marked the second time new lows have surpassed new highs in the past two weeks. The first instance was on the day of the "flash crash" on May 6, nearly two weeks ago. Today, the move was decisive, with 167 new lows compared to only 90 new highs. It would bear to watch this indicator closely for the next ten trading sessions, to see if it continues to trend in this manner, but my gut feeling is that it has flipped and the market is heading for a renewed bout of bearishness, marked by sharp selling and equally sharp rallies off fresh bottoms.

Investors would be well advised to get out of equities as soon as possible, if not already in cash, equivalents or tools of trades as I have been suggesting for some time.

Dow 10,444.37, -66.58 (0.63%)
NASDAQ 2,298.37, -18.89 (0.82%)
S&P 500 1,115.05, -5.75 (0.51%)
NYSE Composite 6,927.21, -32.00 (0.46%)

Losing issues outstripped advancers by a colossal margin, 5030-1549, or better than 3:1, another indication of more pain to come for Bulls. Volume was also strong, indicating that the selling has not yet reached fever pitch.

NYSE Volume 7,827,840,000.00
NASDAQ Volume 2,588,426,750.00

Crude slipped to a seven-month low today before regaining its footing, adding 46 cents, to $69.87 per barrel at the close, though that gain was likely a knee-jerk reaction to the relentless selling the entire month of May which has brought the price down more than 15%.

If there was any indication of deflation, it was not only in the April CPI numbers released prior to the market's opening, which showed a decline of 0.1% (same as yesterday's PPI), but in the price of gold, which sold off considerably. The yellow metal plummeted $21.70, to $1,192.60. Silver suffered an even larger percentage loss, diving 76 cents, to $18.09.

As are all other commodities, they are trading vehicles, and while they may fare better than other asset classes, they are still not immune from the ravishes of deflation, which has been and continues to bombard global markets with price dislocations and a general lack of pricing power.

The race to the bottom is on again. Cash is king once more!