Showing posts with label housing starts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label housing starts. Show all posts

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Brave New World Beckons As Algos Gone Wild Erase Vaccine Hopes, Feds Try Keeping Up With Lockdown Liftings

Stocks took a pretty major blow in the final hour of trading Tuesday, when Stat News, which is focused on health-related material, reported that Moderna's phase one trial of a COVID-19 vaccine was thin on critical data according to experts, in contrast to the glow that permeated Wall Street Monday over the same trial.

When that story crossed the wires, it wiped out - in a matter of minutes just before 3:00 pm ET - all of the sparse gains on the day for the NASDAQ and S&P, and sent the Dow Industrials tumbling in a textbook case of how stock-trading algorithms distort and disrupt what used to be markets run by human beings.

Moderna (MRNA) dropped nearly 10.5% on the day, after gaining 20% on Monday, wiping out most of that one-day wonderfulness. Moderna closed Friday at 66.68, rose to close at 80.00 on Monday and finished up Tuesday at 71.67.

Easy come, easy go.

The Dow, which was in the red almost all day, dropped more than 200 points in 10 minutes. Gains on other exchanges were wiped out in one fell swoop. Such is the fickle nature of equity markets in the days of fake news and extreme momentum chasing and yield seeking.

Elsewhere, Home Depot (HD) took a $640 million after-tax hit due to its response to the pandemic, which included expanded paid time off for hourly employees, weekly bonuses, and extended dependent-care benefits. Earnings per share for the first quarter came in at $2.08, down from $2.27 in the prior-year period and $0.18 below analyst expectations. Home Depot was down 7.25, a loss of nearly three percent on the day.

Walmart blew everything away in its quarterly, reporting adjusted earnings per share of $1.18, up from $1.13 in the prior-year period. Total sales for the big box giant jumped 8.6% to $134.6 billion, handily beating analyst estimates by $3.7 billion. Comparable-store sales in the U.S. soared 10%, driven by strong demand for food, consumables, and health and wellness products.

Even those blockbuster numbers couldn't stop investors from unloading Walmart stock, which finished the day down 2.71 (-2.12%). The stock made a 52-week high less than a month ago.

Housing starts were down 30.2% in April. Building Permits down 20.8% for the most recent month.

Other than all that, there wasn't much excitement on Wall Street, which thrives on gains, no matter where they're sourced.

The major issue facing stocks and the overall economy is how well the Federal Reserve can keep up with the rolling knock-on effects from the coronavirus and government response to it. With the national lockdown winding into a roving re-opening phase, some areas are seeing business and communities getting back to some semblance of normalcy, which is now a moving target. Schools remain closed almost nationwide, while rural communities have fared much better in terms of case incidence and economic slowdown than urban areas.

Having just passed the midway point of the second quarter, there's little doubt anywhere that the blow to GDP will be tremendous. The latest estimates for second quarter GDP range from -42% to -20% and those guesses may be overly optimistic. Being that just about everything was shut down for the entire month of April and most cities - where economic activity is paramount - just beginning to open up to vehicle and foot traffic, there's a very real possibility that the current quarter could collapse by more than 50 percent. Much is dependent on the consumer mindset, which is currently a mixed one.

Having already received bailout currency from the federal government and generous additions to unemployment insurance, lawmakers in Washington are slow-footing the follow-up. House Democrats launched a $3 trillion second stimulus measure on Friday, but Republicans in the Senate are calling the bill dead on arrival, preferring to take time to assess the result from round one before committing to more fun money for small business and individuals.

One unmistakable aspect of the government's bailout efforts is the unexpected consequences from giving people who were laid off or furloughed in the early days of the lockdown movement an additional $600 a week in unemployment compensation. As it turns out, a very large percentage (up to 70% according to some estimates) of workers are making more now sitting at home collecting benefits than they were when they were gainfully employed and many of them are refusing to go back to their old jobs. Would anybody have suspected that hard-working Americans would rather stay home and cash checks from the government rather than grind out a 9-to-5 existence?

It shows, yet again, that government is always the problem and never the solution. Welcome to socialism 101 and a test run of Universal Basic Income (UBI). Alongside Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), now in live alpha testing by the Federal Reserve, the federal government and its central bank have slingshot the American public into a brave new world of radical economics, the long-term effects known by exactly nobody, though skeptics believe it will eventually result in either a worldwide depression, neo-feudalism (Max Keiser and others easily figured that one out), hyper-inflation, and a growing divide between haves and have-nots, already a chasm-sized gap.

Best bet is to be ready for all of the above by investing in hard assets, growing a garden, learning as much as possible about animal husbandry (at least chickens), and obtaining skills necessary to eek out a meager existence without the benefit of a central authority. Younger people will increasingly find such advice tiresome and boring, but the jobs and careers they were engaged in before the crisis occurred will almost certainly be greatly affected, with an emphasis on the negative.

Along those lines, unless local governments begin the process of trimming their robust budgets, cities and towns face imminent crises, the bigger ones looking at enormous needs that neither the federal government nor the Federal Reserve can fulfill.

Life will gradually return to a dystopian almost-normal in coming months. Thankfully, Summer is on the horizon, along with warmer weather and outdoor activities which should provide relief from the mask-wearing, social distancing, and fear mongering so prevalent in the current environment. On the other hand, things are heating up pretty quickly on all fronts. Expecting more disruption, displeasure, discontent, disparate government actions, fraud, fakery, and general dysfunction would be a solid frame of reference for anyone wishing to come out on the other side of this - circa 2022 - somewhat sane and intact.

At the Close, Tuesday, May 19, 2020:
Dow: 24,206.86, -390.51 (-1.59%)
NASDAQ: 9,185.10, -49.72 (-0.54%)
S&P 500: 2,922.94, -30.97 (-1.05%)
NYSE: 11,248.97, -153.26 (-1.34%)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

When Three Strikes Is a Home Run

In the game of baseball, there are rules, immutable and unchanging. Three outs per inning. A caught fly ball is an out. Three strikes and you're out.

The world of high finance, as demonstrated daily on the trading platforms, carries no such rules, other than simple casino-style paradigms. Make the right bet, at the right time, and you're a winner, after the various parties to the trade take their respective cuts, of course. The broker gets theirs, the government, another. It's more about timing and luck, especially these days, when nothing much matters other than the directionality of the various computer algos plying and playing the indices.

So it is that in stocks, you have situations like today, wherein three strikes equates to hitting a home run. Prior to the opening bell, three different sets of economic data were presented, and, against expectations, all were swings and misses, except maybe the seasonally-adjusted building permits, which could be weighed as a foul tip into the catcher's mitt, a strike by any other name.

First came the May CPI, up 0.1%, on expectation of a rise of 0.2%, well short of the Fed's annualized two percent inflation target. Strike one. Next up, housing starts, which banked 914K, well below expectations of 950K. Strike two. As mentioned above, building permits, which mean nothing other than somebody is planning to do something, like put up a fence or remodel a bathroom, were just under the expected annualized rate of 975K - at 974K. Strike three.

The market response was as expected, with deference and possibly blissful ignorance toward the headline numbers, straight up all day, a veritable home run, even as auto sales in Europe reached 20-year lows and an agent of our very own secret police, the NSA (No Such Agency, to wise guys) testified to congress that the wholly unconstitutional massive spying program that filters every American's phone calls, emails and internet activity, prevented the bombing of the NY Stock Exchange by some nefarious, insidious suspect known only as "the doctor" in 2008. The NSA says more than 50 terrorist plots were uncovered by their spy programs since 9/11/2001. Not even the best Hollywood script writers could have come up with a better narrative to deprive citizens of their fourth amendment rights. Those NSA guys hire only the best, you know.

Thus stocks ended the day close to all-time highs once again. The Dow Industrials are within spitting distance - less than 100 points - of the May 28 closing high of 15,409.39 as the Fed ponders what to do next, wrapping up their two-day FOMC meeting on Wednesday. A policy decision is due out at 2:00 pm EDT, followed by a reading of the statement and press conference, by everybody's favorite "doctor," the dis-honorable Ben Bernanke, balding, bearded, wizened Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

With recent jawboning efforts pointing toward some tightening of Fed policy, the markets seem to be expecting no change in course for the every-easy Fed, and, while there's some nervousness over the wording of the statement, one might suspect that an even more important date - expiry of June options contracts on Friday - may be what's really driving the markets higher this week.

With baited breath we await the words of fearless leader the Chairman. Can't wait.

Dow 15,318.23, +138.38 (0.91%)
NASDAQ 3,482.18, +30.05 (0.87%)
S&P 500 1,651.81, +12.77 (0.78%)
NYSE Composite 9,399.63, +61.74 (0.66%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,593,283,375
NYSE Volume 3,392,735,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4430-2051
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 327-76
WTI crude oil: 98.44, +0.67
Gold: 1,366.90, -16.20
Silver: 21.68, -0.081

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stocks Have a Late-Day Reality Check (and reality wins)

After yesterday's golden sombrero (a baseball slang term denoting a player striking out four times in four at-bats) of economic data, today's market was welcomed with another 0-for-4 reading on economic data, that on top of Wal-Mart's (WMT) poor first quarter which was a miss on the revenue side, blamed, laughingly, on weather (we have it every day, dolts) and late income tax refunds (pure baloney).

Prior to the opening bell, initial unemployment claims came in at 360K, when the market was looking for a benign 335K, oops. At the same time, April CPI registered -0.4%, the worst showing (for inflationists) since 2007, and housing starts slumped rom 1021K in March to 853K in April, a massive fall-off and well below rosy expectations for 970K. So much for the "rebound" in housing which was supposed to be leading the recovery.

Topping off the list, at 10:00 am EDT, was the Philadelphia Fed's Manufacturing Index, expected to show modest growth to a humorous 2.5, but bolted out at -5.2, another sign that business activity is actually slowing down and doing so in a rather hasty retreat, not only in the US, but globally. France, apart from the farce that is Europe, is also heading deeper into recession, and China's growth is slowing considerably faster than anyone might have expected (except those who don't believe China's economic numbers in the first place).

Thus, stocks hugged the flat-line before caving in - around 3:00 pm EDT - to the pressure of eight straight missed on key economic data, a poor earnings season typified by revenue misses and the continuing crisis at the top of the federal government of not one, not two, but three separate scandals.

Market declines on the day were not exactly pronounced, but, checking the calendar and noting that this is the day before monthly options expiry, it all begins to make more sense. Nobody's yet brave enough to call this a top, but it sure looks like one, smells like one and has all the antecedent timing factors to actually be one.

We'll see if there's any carry-over to tomorrow's week-ending session. Today's late tape was bolstered by tape-painting and/or short covering, which lifted the indices off their lows.

Dow 15,233.22, -42.47 (0.28%)
NASDAQ 3,465.24, -6.37 (0.18%)
S&P 500 1,650.47, -8.31 (0.50%)
NYSE Composite 9,489.18, -62.24 (0.65%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,924,503,750.00
NYSE Volume 3,771,709,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2633-3851
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 607-62
WTI crude oil: 95.16, +0.86
Gold: 1,386.90, -9.30
Silver: 22.66, +0.001

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dow Hits Five-Year High; Why Isn't Anyone Celebrating?

Money has to go somewhere, and today it went straight into equities, pushing the Dow to a five-year high.

Whether or not this euphoric advance was based on anything more than the Fed's continuing POMO operations remains to be seen.

Housing starts and building permits for December were figuratively "through the roof," though on Main Street America, people are wondering just who it is that is buying all these new homes.

In the real economy - the one that functions on dollars and cents, not swaps, repos, debt financing and accounting fantasies - it still feels like a recession. Stores are largely empty, incomes are still declining overall and the bulk of the US consumer class has just been hit with a 2% tax increase, thanks to the assembled dunces in congress and at the White House.

Unemployment claims today came in at a multi-month low of 335,000, though continuing claims increased from 3127K to 3214K in one week, so, something at the BLS isn't quite adding up, though that's largely been the case since 2006 or before.

The Philadelphia Fed index of economic activity printed a -5.8 for the current month, following a positive 4.6 in December. This reading comes on the heels of Empire Manufacturing (NY state) showing a -7.8 after a -7.3.

If none of this makes any sense to you, consider that Boeing (BA), after having all of their 787 "Dreamliners" (make that "Nightmare Flight") grounded by the FAA (note: this is after years and years of delays and missed deadlines), shares of the nation's top plane builder finished up 92 cents (1.24%).

Beyond that, ZeroHedge notes that if you strip out the gains made by Bank of America - the top performing Dow stock of 2012 - for releasing loan loss reserves (an accounting trick), the bank actually lost something on the order of $2.5 billion last year.

Regular readers (or at least those who check the stats at the bottom of each post) will take note that new highs - new lows has today reached the pinnacle of absurdity.

Even in the very, very, very best of times there were always more than eight stocks hitting new 52-week lows, it's only natural in a normal, competitive environment. The number of new lows since the first of the year has been hovering in the teems for the most part. The money gushing from the Federal Reserve to the primary dealers to the stock market is causing the most unbalanced market ever witnessed.

And the debt ceiling increase that needs to be approved, but just seems to sit there, like a 300000000-ton weight over the US economy, ah, don't worry about that. Our "leaders" will find a way to ix that, certainly, positively, without a doubt.

We live in Wonderland. Sadly, only those who pad their wallets on Wall Street get to be either the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter or Alice.

Dow 13,596.02, +84.79 (0.63%)
NASDAQ 3,136.00, +18.46 (0.59%)
S&P 500 1,480.98, +8.31 (0.56%)
NYSE Composite 8,766.54, +55.98 (0.64%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,734,349,250
NYSE Volume 3,966,953,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4628-1787
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 525-8
WTI crude oil: 95.49, +1.25
Gold: 1,690.80, +7.60
Silver: 31.81, +0.268

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

BOJ Eases; Housing a Little Better; Oil Takes Another Hit

OK, it's getting a little stupid with the incessant chorus of monetization of government (and bank debt).

Today, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) joined in, announcing something along the lines of a couple quadrillion yen to be added to liquidity over the next six to eight months. That may not be correct, but the numbers were large, the editor is too tired from cutting down dead limbs (from actual trees), and the time period is rather irrelevant, since the BOJ has been doing this kind of thing for 20-odd years, with obvious effect: keeping the Japanese economy mired in a semi-permanent state alternating between inflation and depression.

Markets took the news in stride, as usual, bounced around a bit, eventually ending only slightly higher on low volume. That's the story for now, and, while it doesn't change much, some day it will. In the meantime, we're taking our own advice and buying land, seeds (tomatoes, tobacco, broccoli, etc.), silver and maybe some working firearms.

There was what might be called "encouraging" news on the housing front. Housing starts (officially, a shovel in the ground or a stake being placed on a lot by a surveyor) came in at 750K in August, but that was below forecast, though up from the July figure of 733K, which was revised downward from 746K, so, expect the August figures to be revised lower as well, for a net gain of, well, who knows?

Existing home sales for August came in at an annual run-rate of 4.82 million, up from an unrevised 4.47 million in July and well ahead of forecasts. That was the best of the news, because August building permits, viewed as an indicator of current demand, fell from 812K in July to 803K, putting something of a damper on the "animal spirits" which keep calling the bottom in the housing market month after month.

Is this the bottom? Maybe, though that depends on perspective and how far out you wish to project. Give housing another four years of ZIRP, massive MBS buying and monetization of the federal debt and see where we are then.

Even better news came from the oil commodity complex, where the price of crude took another massive hit. There's no telling where the selling is coming from, or why, though it certainly seems fishy given the closeness to the general election - just six short weeks away - and the inherently inflationary effect of Bernanke's QEternity, but, it's welcome relief for drivers in the US, at least.

Dow 13,577.96, +13.32(0.10%)
NASDAQ 3,182.62, +4.82(0.15%)
S&P 5001,461.05, +1.73 (0.12%)
NYSE Composite 8,400.31, +12.87 (0.15%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,826,526,125
NYSE Volume 3,409,506,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2914-2500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 315-28
WTI crude oil: 91.98, -3.31
Gold: 1,771.70, +0.50
Silver: 34.59, -0.13

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Housing Not So Rousing, Saudis Naughty on Oil

How's that recovery coming along?

In housing, not so well, it turns out.

Housing starts fell from 705K in January to 698K, annualized, in February, with much of the new construction boosted in the multi-family, "5 units or more" category (apartments), which implies a couple of things. First, investors seem to believe that single-family home construction is a fading business, and, second, most of lower and middle class Americans cannot meet the current, stringent lending requirements needed to qualify for mortgages, so they will rent instead of own.

That's something of a setback for the "American dream of home ownership" crowd that watches in horror as each month more and more existing homes sell for less than their listed price, even more become vacant eyesores due to bank and tax foreclosures as the economy stumbles along at maybe two percent growth.

Building permits rose to 717K in February from 682K in January, probably due to the unusually warm weather across most of the country, though the apparent contrariness in that metric may be merely stealing from the future and is also the very first step in construction - a long way from completion, which, as people in Las Vegas and elsewhere will contend, often never happens.

With those numbers released before the open as a backdrop, stocks opened sharply lower and remained in the red throughout the session, though the NASDAQ and S&P 500 had interesting intra-day rallies that took them well off their lows into the close.

Oil got shocked down as the Saudis pledged to pump more crude, Iran assured its neighbors that the Strait of Hormuz would remain open and more signs that the Chinese economy is slowing emerged.

Overall, it was a good day for consumers and not such a great one for oil barons and one-percenters, though financial stocks were among the leaders. As usual, volume was weak and maybe just a mirage. Silver continues to slump, now down into a great buying range below support at $32/ounce.

Dow 13,170.19, -68.94 (0.52%)
NASDAQ 3,074.15, -4.17 (0.14%)
S&P 500 1,405.52, -4.23 (0.30%)
NYSE Composite 8,241.27, -56.20 (0.68%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,508,268,500
NYSE Volume 3,656,522,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1753-3806
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 116-40
WTI crude oil: 105.61, -2.48
Gold: 1,647.00, -20.30
Silver: 31.83, -1.12

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stocks Scream Higher on Positive Economic Data

This one will practically write itself.

Stocks were buoyed today by falling initial unemployment claims (down to 348,000 after 361,000 last week), rising housing starts (699K) and building permits (676K), and a very tame PPI number of 0.01. The Phialdelphia Fed's survey of regional economic activity was also up, to 10.2 in February from 7.3 in January.

All of this good news - and the absence of anything untoward from Europe - sent stocks on a day long rally that just kept rising steadily throughout the session. Naturally, the Euro was higher, as that correlation remains wholly intact.

Whether or not one agrees with the numbers, Wall Street made sure to boost stocks one day before options expiry, which may have been the plan all along, since there aren't enough individual investors or opinions other than those espoused by the powers that be, to matter.

Never mind what I said yesterday about the possibility of a nasty correction and repeat after me: "the market must go higher."

The original JP Morgan would be flummoxed. Once, when hounded by rabid reporters asking what the market would do, Morgan casually tossed out an all-time classic. "The market will fluctuate," he said.

We sure could use a dose of Mr. Morgan's common sense, or, at least a few of the silver dollars named after him.

Keep in mind that this is an election year, so that whatever outcome has already been determined, the markets will provide the proper narrative. It appears that Barack Obama is their guy, so it should surprise nobody if unemployment is at 7.3% come November 2nd and the GDP is growing at 3 1/2 - 4%, no matter how convoluted the exercise to get to those numbers.

Which leads to another great quote: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." The phrase was popularized by Mark Twain, who attributed it to Benjamin Disraeli, though the quote never appears in any of Disraeli's published works.

Could Twain have made it up himself? After all, his real name was Samuel Clemens.

And, by the way, since the US seems intent on making Iran a whipping boy, $4/gallon gas is coming, sooner, not later, just in time to eat up the payroll tax cut extension which the congress agreed to this morning and will likely pass on Friday. No free lunch, kiddies.

Dow 12,904.08, +123.13 (0.96%)
NASDAQ 2,959.85, +44.02 (1.51%)
S&P 500 1,358.04, +14.81 (1.10%)
NYSE Composite 8,092.61, +93.96 (1.17%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,890,777,750
NYSE Volume 4,022,471,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4275-1405
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 230-16
WTI crude oil: 102.31, +0.51
Gold: 1,728.40, +0.30
Silver: 33.37, -0.04

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Poor Data Undermines Fed Pumping Effort

Well, there's nothing the Federal Reserve can do about a collapsing economy, after all.

Data from the housing sector today suggests that despite pumping literally trillions into the US financial system, the original canary in the coal mine, residential real estate, is still lying prone on the operating table, unable to move, dead as a doornail. And yet, the Fed and the federal government still insists that spending more money (creating more debt) is the ultimate fix-all.

One has to wonder just when the American public will have had enough of this disaster in centrally-planned economics. The banks have been spared, though they remain among the worst investments listed. The government has exceeded the debt limit (yesterday), and is now raiding the retirement funds of public employees. The federal employees are the first to be robbed. Next will be state pension funds, so you teachers out there, adjust your lifestyle pans accordingly as you're about to receive a very unwanted haircut.

The numbers coming from the real estate sector can be characterized as nothing less than a national disaster. Housing starts and building permits fell to unprecedented lows at 523,000 and 521,000 (annualized), respectively. The numbers for housing starts (new homes) represents a 23% decline from a year ago, while the permit figures for new home construction fell 4% from March.

All in all, it's simply horrible environment in which to be building new homes. The level of new home construction has been at the lowest level since the government began keeping track and continued to decline. There's simply too much shadow inventory being held onto by the banks, who don't want to realize losses on the many homes that are either already REO, in the foreclosure process or where the homeowner is already more than three months behind.

The market for new homes is absolutely the thinnest it's ever been and it doesn't appear to be getting any better.

Adding to the ongoing economic catastrophe were figures on industrial production - flat for April - and capacity utilization, which may have peaked in March, at 77%. April's figure came in at 76.9%, and will likely be revised lower.

Thus, we have a stalled industrial sector, a dead residential housing market, slow to no job creation and the recession was supposed to have ended more than two years ago.

Face it, folks, your government is not in favor of prosperity for the average American. If congress and the administration were serious about jobs and growth and not preoccupied with fighting wars on drugs and terror and meddling into the affairs of other countries, none of this would be happening. We've been sold out, lied to and yet there are fewer and fewer voices of protest. One supposes that Americans have had enough, yet are so worn down by joblessness, violence, foreclosures, regulations and intrusions that they haven't got the energy to complain.

Wall Street is feeling the stress as well. The Dow Jones Industrials were down a nifty 170 points in the early going, but, as usual, when the Fed money comes into play, reversed course and finished with a smaller loss. The other indices were down as well, except the NASDAQ, which posted a fractional gain, probably from being so viciously sold off the prior two sessions.

The "go away in May" crowd seems to have it about right. During the month - today being the 12th trading day in May of 21 total, so we're past the mid-point - the NASDQ is down 90 points, the Dow is off 330 and the S&P has shed some 34 points. It's not a great amount, yet, though it is already a 2-3% decline. Slow death. The S&P has been down eight of the 12 sessions in May. The correction is underway.

Dow 12,479.42, -68.95 (0.55%)
NASDAQ 2,783.21, +0.90 (0.03%)
S&P 500 1,328.98, -0.49 (0.04%)
NYSE Compos 8,333.07, -3.52 (0.04%)

Declining issues danced past advancers, 3815-2713. NASDAQ recorded just 28 new highs and 83 new lows, the second day in succession that the lows have been on the high side. The NYSE continues to resist flipping negative, as new highs outnumbered new lows, 80-47. Volume was moderate, another ominous signal on a down day.

NASDAQ Volume 2,190,797,000
NYSE Volume 4,459,555,500

WTI crude dropped 46 cents, to $96.91, though it traded significantly lower for much of the session. High gas prices, in spite of slack demand and 15% lower crude, persists, however, with the US average at $3.94, down only a few cents from its peak. Just a few hours ago, a group of Democratic Senators called for an FTC probe of oil refiners, suggesting that price-fixing has occurred. Rest assured that it is nothing more than a dog-and-pony show as the senators are merely grandstanding, knowing full well that their campaigns are largely financed by these very companies.

The hit squad was out in full riot gear in the metals markets, sending gold down $4.80, to $1485.00 and sending silver below $33/ounce, before it rebounded to post a gain of 35 cents, currently at $33.95. It should be apparent to all that the forced de-leveraging in precious metals is not about to abate, and prices could tumble quite a bit further, especially where gold is concerned.

A discussion is underway in Washington as to whether it would be prudent to sell some of the gold held at Fort Knox to keep the government running. Presidential candidate Ron Paul feels it's a good idea, though he faces opposition, notably from President Obama. The US gold reserves are valued presently at roughly $370 billion.

All along, the government sits back and watches in a silent stupor, as the United States of America, and its constitution, is slowly ground to dust. And not a word of protest was heard.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Extending Gains, Stocks at 18-month Highs

Oh, Happy Day! If you haven't bothered to pay much attention to this space, you should be well off following the seventh straight advance for the Dow Jones Industrials, which broke and closed above the January highs and now sit at their best levels since October, 2008, when the bear market took its most prominent downside path.

What this would infer is that the financial crisis is fully behind us, recovered from and prosperity is now priced into the market to a substantial degree. Never mind that high unemployment persists and that housing remains in the throes of its worst extended period since the 1930s, money - as measured by the Fed funds rate of ZERO - is dirt cheap and stocks are flying.

Instead of looking this gift horse squarely in the mouth and playing this leg of the rally for all its worth, some of us have serious doubts going forward, though naysayers during spectacular bull trends (this is a bear market rally) are usually shuffled onto the last trains to loserville. No difference this time around, as sentiment has grown overwhelmingly positive. Stocks are the only investment with little risk and high reward, and that's what on everyone's plate.

While those viewing the macro-economic condition as less-than-healthy and still riddled with structural time-bombs, short-term, stocks have provided a great deal of upside action and quality trading plays. Note that the word "trading" was substituted for "investment," as the latter is no longer viewed with much respect. The money is there for the taking today, and take it is what most traders will do.

One tiny detail many may have missed here is that Friday marks a quad-witching day in which stock index options and futures and individual stock options and futures all expire. Being that the betting (note "betting" rather than "investment") has uniformly been to the high side, insider market participants will conclude their self-fulfilling prophecy with healthy gains, just as they have nearly every month and on every such quadruple-witching event of the past four quarters.

Also of note is that the Dow Industrials have now confirmed the breakout by the Transports, keeping Dow Theorists firmly in the back of the bus until such time as another aberration is recognized and then swiftly reconciled. If you expected stocks to rise, then you've hit the bulls-eye, though the reasons for gains may matter more than the actual finished product.

In other words, with easy money, bullish sentiment and no headwinds blowing against them, stocks had little to do but wait until people bid them higher. It's all so neat and simple when a plan comes so sweetly to fruition, no matter the underlying fundamentals.

Dow 10,733.67, +47.69 (0.45%)
NASDAQ 2,389.09, +11.08 (0.47%)
S&P 500 1,166.21, +6.75 (0.58%)
NYSE Composite 7,474.02, +47.32 (0.64%)

The internals were possibly even better than the headline numbers, with 4328 advancing stocks to 2196 losing value. New highs exploded to 1073, versus 77 new lows. That's the largest margin of difference - in either direction - in 16 months, and the best showing for new highs since prior to the bear market which began in late Summer of 2007.

Volume was very strong, owing again to the quad-witching condition.

NYSE Volume 5,549,815,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,166,110,750

Crude oil traders must be thinking there's a boom coming soon, because their pricing is out of this world. Crude closed up another $1.23, to $82.93, close to 18 month-highs itself. Gold was not so lustrous, but still up $1.80, to $1,124.00. Silver closed higher by 17 cents, to $17.50.

A few of the less-noticed economic data sets from the past few days may shed light upon why not everyone is sold on the recovery story. Capacity utilization ticked up a fraction in February, to 72.7%, still horrible. In a robust economy, that number would be over 90%. Consequently, industrial production saw a gain of only 0.1% in February, barely moving the needle.

Housing starts fell to 575,000 in January, again, a feeble number, and PPI, released this morning, showed a decline of 0.6%, or, in other words, outright deflation. However, instead of considering this a portent of a weak, stumbling, or at best, stagnant economy, the take was to call it "tame inflation" as though inflation would magically re-appear in time to rescue the pricing power of businesses.

This bear-market rally has now gone on for 13 months with only two near-corrections of 9% - in June, 2009 and February of this year - hardly the kind of performance one would expect from economic conditions such as exist today. But, Wall Street does as it pleases, and what pleases it most is stuffing more money into it's already lavishly-lined pockets.

Party on, Garth.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wilting Green Shoots: Housing Starts at Record Low

You are being led like sheep to the slaughter.

Every day, financial information is released, most of it bad, and every day, without fail, the financial press warps the news with unfounded optimism and wraps it in a garland of rosy future predictions.

Take, for instance, how couches the low record-setting level of housing starts and construction permits in positive spin:
News that housing starts and building permits recently fell below expectations jostled participants in the early going and undermined what was a positive bias ahead of the opening bell. Housing starts during April came in at an annualized rate of 458,000, while building permits for April hit a rate of 494,000. Both marked record lows.

However, there is a silver lining to the report. Fewer housing starts and building permits means there will be fewer homes on the market, which should help clear the glut of existing homes and improve pricing.

Even Bloomberg plays the bad-news-is-good-news game. First, the Bloomberg story says, "Housing starts unexpectedly slid 13 percent..." and later offers the wisdom of Wachovia economist Adam York, who opines, “This continues to support the story that new construction probably bottoms by early summer...”

Let's take a look at these stories. First, in the spin, they point out that the bad news on housing upset the market's positive bias and "jostled" participants. Their "silver lining" reference is pure hokum: It's akin to saying that not selling out a performance of a play was good because it meant more leg and arm room for those few in attendance.

As for Bloomberg, they begin with the "unexpected" line. This is a ploy used constantly by the media. Apparently, nobody in the world expects anything bad to occur. It's not true. A daily read of my blog and a perusal of writings of people like Nouriel Robini, Jim Willie CB, Rob Kirby, Pam Martens, James Quinn, J. R. Nyquist, Paul Nolte. Mike Whitney and many others who aren't pushing an agenda reveals that there is no consensus on recovery and no gilt-lined packaging on economic data. Those who see and believe the trends and figures for what they are - signs of further deterioration - base their opinions in reality, not the fantasy that has become so popular on Wall Street, CNBC and the mainstream media.

The truth - if you can handle it - is that the economy is busted, broken, defunct, defaulted and despoiled. Sure, there will be a bottom, but probably not until mid-2010 at the earliest, and, even then, any recovery is likely to be weak. As I've been saying for some time, the Us economy is in a long-term downtrend that will last anywhere from 6 to 12 years. Standards of living will continue to decline, or, at best, not improve. This is not to say that everyone will be devastated, though many will. Americans have to make adjustments in their expectations for everything, especially their finances. Sadly, the mainstream media, Wall St., and the federal government isn't preparing the populace for the inevitability of a long, sustained depression.

Dow 8,474.85, -29.23 (0.34%)
Nasdaq 1,734.54, +2.18 (0.13%)
S&P 500 908.13, -1.58 (0.17%)
NYSE Composite 5,872.22, +6.35 (0.11%)

Advancing issues outdid decliners, 3682-2760. New highs finally caught new lows, at 61 apiece, for only the sixth time in the past daily readings in 19 months. Volume was moderate. The rollover of new high-new lows is expected to be short-lived. The markets can only remain at these elevated levels for a short period before insider selling takes stocks back down to near March lows, and then, lower. While I don't possess a crystal ball, I do know that the new highs-lows has been a consistently reliable indicator and any push to the other side - with more new highs than new lows - for a prolonged period, would signal the beginning of a new bull market. Obviously, this is not the case, so the conclusion to be drawn is that this is a signal of the end of the 2 1/2-month rally, shortly.

NYSE Volume 6,693,324,500
Nasdaq Volume 2,128,807,750

Oil gained again, up 62 cents, to $59.65. Gold rebounded $5.00 higher, to $926.70, while silver added 30 cents, to $14.13.

You best investment choices continue to be undervalued real estate, especially foreclosures and raw, arable land, gold and, of course, silver, which is likely to at least double over the coming two years and appreciate further after that.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Geithner Passes Committee; Housing, Unemployment Reach Records

Tim Geithner was approved by the Senate Finance Committee (guess we all can cheat on our taxes without worry now!) earlier today, as the process of confirmation as Treasury Secretary now passes to the full Senate. The AP wire lit up with the story at 12:37 pm EST, just about the same time the Dow crossed back above 8000 and started a mini-rally (by 2:15 pm, the Dow snuck past 8200).

Coincidence? I think not. Wall Street's fate is now tied to Geithner and how he and Ben Bernanke, over at the Fed, interact and respond to the ongoing obliteration of the nation's largest financial firms.

The euphoria over having one of their own (Geithner's resume is full of Wall Street, World Bank and NY Fed connections) with his hands nearly on the US Treasury quickly faded as those in the know remembered that the US government is carrying a debt load of close to $11 Trillion, so maybe Geithner won't be able to help in the long run. Shortly after 3:00 pm, the Dow was down 150 points again, and matters didn't improve much heading into the closing bell.

Dow 8,122.80, -105.30 (1.28%)
NASDAQ 1,465.49, -41.58 (2.76%)
S&P 500 827.50, -12.74 (1.52%)
NYSE Composite 5,171.74, -102.25 (1.94%)

On top of this is a growing concern over how stable the Federal Reserve is. Bearing in mind that the Fed is a private bank, albeit with deep tethers to the government, the Fed has been buying up more than its fair share of rotten assets and throwing around money like Bernie Madoff on an investor hunt.

With more and more economists and commentators openly saying that the large banking institutions are insolvent (something I and others have known and written about since 2007), reality is taking a heavy toll on investor sentiment. (I'll have much more about the Fed, the banks, the bailouts and our future in a blockbuster report tomorrow)

While the marketeers were making the most of their man being appointed to Treasury, an earnings miss and announced layoffs by Microsoft and more dismal data from the housing and employment sectors overhung the entire session, acting as the metaphorical ton of bricks weighing down all sectors.

New unemployment claims hit a level not reached since 1982, with 589,000 new applications for the week ended January 16.

New home construction and permits fell to record low levels in December, the Commerce Dept. reported.

Taken together, the news could not have been much worse, though investors are getting used to the endless stream of bad news coming out of government and private analyses. The poor earnings reports for the 4th quarter are a relatively recent add to the mix, but earnings season is getting into full swing. Google reports after the bell today. (Update: Google beat analyst expectations ($4.98), posting Non-GAAP EPS for the fourth quarter of 2008 of $5.10.)

Declining issues outweighed advancers by a wide margin, 4867-1560. New lows: 230. New highs: 12. Volume was consistent with the past few days, generally on the high side.

NYSE Volume 1,554,123,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,347,116,000

Oil finished with a 12 cent gain, closing at $43.67, though US inventories were reported 14% above last year's levels. Oil traded lower for much of the session before recovering into the close. Natural gas fell 9 cents, to $4.65. Gold gained $8.70, to $858.80; silver finished the day 4 cents to the good, at $11.37 the ounce.

A catalyst to propel the bulls has yet to emerge, though at this juncture, small bits, like Google's good report, may be enough to keep what little is left of investor confidence. Today's close on the Dow, however, was the second this week below 8149, the interim low (Dec. 1) following the November 20 collapse and bottom (7552).

The markets have traded sideways for two months running, so a betting man might be inclined to look for a change in dynamics. I make the prospects of closing below the Nov. 20 lows within a month at 70%, and a gain to 8750 in the same time frame almost nil.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Markets Rally Late, Dow Sets Another New High

US indices spent most of Friday trading in the negative, but the Dow got just enough of late activity to boost it to another closing high - the third in a row.

DJIA: 12,767.57 Up 2.56; Nasdaq: 2,496.31 Down 0.79; S&P 500 1,455.54 Down 1.27.

On a day that was altogether lethargic, the averages managed to just barely hold their own. News from the housing market was the only notable piece, with a 14.1% decline in January housing the headline.

Despite what some experts may be saying, the long, slow decline in housing starts, median prices and overall prices and the antecedent rise in mortgage delinquencies is only gathering momentum. Housing prices over the last 10 years had grown out of the reach of most Americans and a readjustment is necessary. There's going to be much more pain down the road to suburbia in coming months and years, with massive failure of a lender or two the culmination.

An environment wherein a two-earner family with a gross income of $90,000 thinks seriously about trading up to a $500,000 home simply cannot sustain itself. Sooner or later, prices cool, speculators back out, deals are undersubscribed and the whole thing goes bust. That's exactly what's occurring in South Florida especially and elsewhere to a lesser extent. Markets in Las Vegas, parts of California and the Northeast corridor have already been cooling down for the last six months to a year. The trend will spread, the herd will thin and all of a sudden - over a period of 2-3 years - you've got a buyer's market. That's where we're headed.

A bust in the housing market isn't going to affect the investor class much, however, unless people begin cashing in 401k's to make the mortgage payments. A more likely occurrence is that municipalities will face the untidy prospect of seeing tax revenues truncated under the auspices of the highly-popular-but-fiscally-unsupportable market value assessments. It's a nightmare for tax districts large and small, and it's coming fast.

Another good week for stocks ends with this cheery note: crude oil rose $1.40 on Friday to close at $59.39. $60/bbl. still looks like a short term top. Pitchers and catchers reported for Spring training this week. Spring is just around the corner.