Showing posts with label unit labor costs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unit labor costs. Show all posts

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stocks Drift Lower on Unemployment, Productivity Figures

It appears that the stock market may well be topped out for the short term, though the background of $85 billion in additional monthly stimulus will almost certainly help contain any declines to mere "noise" other than a true correction or change in market sentiment.

About the only thing that could alter the relentless, upward direction of stocks would be war, a series of natural disasters or an alien space invasion, and of those three, war would be the most likely. The suspected antagonists would be China vs. Japan, Israel vs. Iran or an expansion of US efforts in Northern Africa. Even in such a scenario, so intent is the Federal Reserve on its path to devaluing the currency in the name of progress or some nebulous, idealized vision of "growth at all costs," one would tend to believe their efforts at keeping stocks high and interest rates low would only redouble.

So it is that the major indices have come nearly all the way back to previous highs in the nearly five years since the epic crash of 2008-09 without the participation of many individual investors. The reasons contributing to such widespread investor shyness are manifold, highlighted by fear of high frequency trading, flash crashes, suspected manipulation, or the plain and simple conclusion that the stock market is riding on a bubble of Fed largesse which is eventually unsustainable.

It's unfortunate that so many have fled from the market in the midst of one of its most stridently bullish eras, but doubts and fears can linger for generations, and, beyond the market there is widespread distrust of other institutions which place themselves above the common man and often, the law.

While the United States, and, to a large part, Europe, struggles through this long winter of discontent, millions have made adjustments to their lifestyles, opting for more sustainable personal economies as opposed to the heavy-handed debt-as-money regime that seemed to have creaked and cracked in the '08-09 economic downturn. Many such individuals will never return to the market and among those that do, they will be cautious to a fault and ready to flee at the first signs of trouble.

Even though economists and stock-pushers continue the mantra of "recovery,' for most, the results of five years of heavy stimulus has produced perceptibly limited results, keeping the skeptics unconvinced.

Today's action was possibly (who knows for sure?) a reaction to economic data released this morning that say initial unemployment claims nearly steady at 366,000 and a dip in productivity for the fourth quarter of 2012 of two percent, pushing unit labor costs to an inflation-inducing 4.5% gain over the same period.

It is just those kinds of choppy data sets and unintended consequences that serve to amplify fears from main Street to Wall Street. the level of uncertainty about everything from price discovery to government machinations over the budgetary process continuing to put a ceiling on true progress toward a resoration of normalcy.

Dow 13,944.05, -42.47 (0.30%)
NASDAQ 3,165.13, -3.35 (0.11%)
S&P 500 1,509.39, -2.73 (0.18%)
NYSE Composite 8,892.85, 41.38 (0.46%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,916,361,875
NYSE Volume 3,865,233,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2441-3979
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 357-26
WTI crude oil: 95.83, -0.79
Gold: 1,671.30, -7.50
Silver: 31.40, -0.474

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stocks Retreat on Employment Fears

Is it possible? Could the programmed trading bots actually be learning? What happens when the computers become self-aware?

Stocks stumbled out of the gate (deft Kentucky Derby reference) at the opening bell and today there was no turning back, as the major indices suffered telling losses, hitting resistance near 3 1/2 - 4-year highs.

More sluggish data and trepidation over Friday's non-farm payroll number had investors (and machines) taking profits and looking for places to hide.

First quarter productivity was lower by 0.5%, though expectations were for a larger decline of -0.8%. The missing and/or exceeding of poor expectations has become something of a sport on Wall Street, with the bullish head-cases believing that anything better than even lousy expectations is a good thing. It's not. Even the burliest New Jersey fixed income book trader should be aware of that.

Unit labor costs rose 2% in the quarter, a stick in the eye of the 1-percenters.

ISM Services was where the big miss occurred, however, breaking down to 53.5 for April on expectations of 55.5 after booking 56.0 in March. After the Poor PMI data earlier in the week and the anomalous ISM manufacturing number that showed modest positive spin, a breakdown in the services sector would be a death knell for the "recovery at all costs" addicts, since service has become mainstream to the US economy.

Meanwhile, it's been eerily quiet on the continent, as Europe slinks into recession. Some economist with a sense of sick humor actually penned an article pointing out how conditions were improving in Greece, of all places, where 80% of businesses in the Athens business district have closed their doors in the past two years and tax receipts are easily outweighed by bribes. The article was so obtuse and fundamentally flawed, it may have been scrubbed from the internet.

The best news of the day was crude oil dropping by $2.68 a barrel, it's biggest one-day decline in over a month, and long overdue, though all commodities were lower, especially gold and silver, a sign of redemption amidst what may be the beginning of a scramble for cash.

Everything hinges on Friday's job number: Obama's re-election bid, general confidence in the economy, and more. Many sleazy banker types around Wall Street are silently praying for a poor number, so that the Fed will continue it Zero Interest Rate policy and maybe drop another round of QE on their best buddies.

My, oh, my, these bankers are a sly lot. Not.

Dow 13,206.59, -61.98 (0.47%)
NASDAQ 3,024.30, -35.55 (1.16%)
S&P 500 1,391.57, -10.74 (0.77%)
NYSE Composite 8,049.74, -74.59 (0.92%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,824,468,000
NYSE Volume 3,966,676,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1566-4050
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 202-104
WTI crude oil: 102.54, -2.68
Gold: 1,634.80, -19.20
Silver: 30.01, -0.64

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Santa (Ben Bernanke) Arrives Early in Europe; Gold, Silver Surge

Stocks worldwide were up sharply Wednesday on the news that the Federal Reserve, in conjunction with the Central Banks of Canada, England, Japan, Switzerland and the European Central Bank (ECB) agreed to lower the pricing on the existing temporary U.S. dollar liquidity swap arrangements by 50 basis points.

It was an early Christmas gift that sparked a speculative rally and kept Europe from unraveling, again.

What we've repeatedly heard is that the current calamities of the Euro-zone are nothing like those encountered on American soil in 2008.

The plain fact that banks in Europe are under dire stress and in need of liquidity not only reprises 2008, but adds a crescendo affect that's akin to adding the NY Philharmonic, the Ohio State marching band and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to the efforts of the Boston Pops.

Stresses on European banks, especially those in France, Belgium and Italy, have been exacerbating on a near-daily basis, with the potential for global contagion even greater than when Lehman Bros. was allowed to flail and fail.

Thus, as some unknown Europe-based bank was about to go under - rumors say $265 million in overnight borrowings from the ECB was the tip-off - the global elitist Central Bankers conspired to lift liquidity by lowering the borrowing rates on US Dollar swap arrangements by 50 basis points (1/2 percent).

Magically, not only was the global Ponzi financial system saved for the day, week or month, but the added benefit of having global equity markets spike 3-4% higher came along as an intended consequence. Yes, the globalists know what they're doing. Too bad for them that it doesn't work long term, as we know so well from recent history, circa September, 2008.

Here's a post, by none other than some character calling himself John Galt, that has both the 2008 and current Federal Reserve press releases. The similarities are striking, but also magnificent was the 2008 aftermath, the worst financial crisis of the last 70 or so years, and the resultant crash of the equity markets.

So, Santa came to town (Europe) dressed as Ben Bernanke, with his trusty elf, Tim Geithner, in tow, passing off presents to the good (and bad) bankers across the continent. While this constitutes Christmas and a Santa Claus Rally about a month prematurely, what can Europe and the global economy expect when the holiday actually arrives on December 25, lumps of coal, or perhaps soaring gold and silver prices?

The actual timing of the eventual collapse is still unknown, though this desperation move seems to indicate that the global financial structure is crumbling faster than the "unseen hands" of the central banks can prop it up. A dive in equities may not coincide with Christmas - that would be a shame - but rather sometime in early 2012, likely in the first quarter and quite possibly in January as profits are taken early in the year on stocks pumped to unwieldy heights in December. The net results being a relatively weaker dollar and higher prices for just about anything one consumes or needs. When the crash comes, of course, the Euro will descend and the dollar will rise, though the effect is probably short-term, until the Easter Bunny fills up those empty bank liquidity baskets again.

As the adage implies, this massive liquidity gift may indeed have a silver lining, encrusted with much-higher-priced gold.

Prior to the Fed's announcement, the People's Bank of China cut bank reserve requirements for the first time in three years, by 0.5%, amid signs that the Chinese economy is slowing due to slack demand for China's exports, particularly from Europe.

After the announcement, with futures up dramatically, ADP released its November Employment Change results, showing the creation of 206,000 private sector jobs during the month. The private survey is a regular precursor to Friday's BLS non-farm payroll data.

Third quarter productivity was measured as up 2.3%, while unit labor costs fell 2.5% as companies hunker down, doing more with fewer employees.

Fifteen minutes into the trading session, Chicago PMI reported a big jump, from 58.4 in October to 62.6 in November. It was an unnecessary boost to a market which had already spiked higher at the open.

There was no fade in this one-day rally, coming conveniently on the last day of the month, traditionally the day reserved for "window dressing" by fund managers. Stocks were up monstrously on the open and continued along a high, flat line for the rest of the session, until a final short-covering episode in the final fifteen minutes pushed indices even higher.

Just speculating, but it had to be one of the best market moves of the year, if not the best. Volume was sufficient, though not overwhelming. The late-day surge may be indicating that even more easy money will flow from the Fed to the hampered Eurozone.

As to whether the moves in stocks are sustainable and the even more important question of whether or not Europe is "fixed," the answers will only be known at some future date. The most cogent commentaries on Europe suggest that today's coordinated central bank motivation only covers over a dire condition in the European banking sector and is nothing more than a liquidity band-aid on a solvency open gash. Europe's funding problems remain unresolved, though any mention of default or collapse has probably been delayed by a few weeks or a month.

And just in case you're worried about food shortages or another recession, the Obama administration and congress actually did accomplish something, recently having lifted the five-year-old ban on slaughtering horses in America. Not to worry, though. Americans won't be eating Little Red Pony or Trigger any time soon (we hope). The meat will likely be shipped to Japan or Europe. However, if this is a trend-setter, cans of Lassie, Rin Tin Tin or Boo Boo Kitty may be in supermarkets soon. Dog food and cat food may take on newer, twisted meanings.

Dow 12,045.68, +490.05 (4.24%)
NASDAQ 2,620.34, +104.83 (4.17%)
S&P 500 1,246.96, +51.77 (4.33%)
NYSE Composite 7,484.49, +334.78 (4.68%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,386,048,000
NYSE Volume 5,808,163,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4913-861
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 161-68 (this has rolled over)
WTI crude oil: 100.36. +0.56
Gold: 1,745.50, +32.10
Silver: 32.73, +0.88