More Conundrums On the Way
July 7, 2005
calm investors pushed stocks modestly higher Thursday, helping Wall Street
recover from steep early losses after the
I know I am being a bit harsh since I am prone to the same kinds of search and effect, but at least I am not selective in my search to specifically boost my own opinion. Today's recovery was amazing to watch all things considered - the Dow moved up 127 points or 1.2% from the low to the close and the Nazz leapt 25 points or 1.2% from its low to close - so it might be interesting to continue examining the explanations out there in the ether before I offer up my own soliloquy:
"Investors took heart after the homeland security
secretary said there was no 'specific credible evidence' of a pending attack in
"A sharp drop in oil prices also helped the markets rally." - How convenient it was that oil prices dropped. You already know how I feel about this excuse. Given that oil is a strong and sustained up-trend, it seem futile to attribute market euphoria to a one-day decline within this up-trend. If you want to claim that the market is betting on a top in oil prices, I am willing to hear you out…before I dismiss that explanation too.
"Traders said the timing of the
"'Unfortunately, this is the world we live in now. Five years ago, the market would have been down much more. Now, we see it as a buying opportunity,' [Jay Suskind, head trader at Ryan Beck & Co. ] said. 'There's no panic.'" - Oh, I get it now. If the market had opened up much lower, we then would have gotten a knee-jerk reaction. The selling after 9/11 was also seen as a remarkable buying opportunity in the following two months. The NASDAQ, the S&P 500, and the Dow Jones Industrials are all hovering around the highs from that snapback rally. Almost four years later and we have gone nowhere. Imagine that… No matter what the reason is for selling, eventually, enough folks will see a buying opportunity that stems the downward slide. We saw the selling begetting buying pattern just last year after the Madrid bombings. Nothing new to see here folks. I do not even want to comment in detail on the appalling complacency expressed in this quote.
"Nonetheless, investors bought up bonds, always
seen as a safer investment than stocks." - Uh oh. What's this? Not
everyone saw the death and destruction in
"Gold prices, another traditional safe haven for investors, also rose." - You mean there was enough fear to even send gold up 0.26%? Wow, I am amazed - even as I check on the ETF "GLD" and note that after opening higher, gold seems to have quickly dipped into the red, before gradually recovering with the rest of the market. Now please explain THAT intra-day action!
"'American investors are not only reacting
emotionally, they're trying to figure things out, trying to determine the economic
impact of what happened,' said Ken Tower, chief market strategist for Schwab's
CyberTrader. 'When you're not at the epicenter, that's easier
to do. There were many more cooler heads
"'A certain amount of this is built in to the market,' Suskind said. 'And sad to say, when it's overseas and isn't targeting financial institutions, the markets can recover pretty quickly.'" - I suppose financial institutions can function just fine when the populace is paralyzed by fear. Perhaps they can operate without people at all. I must have missed that memo.
"In response to the attacks in
Now, before you think I am just a cynic throwing darts at easy targets, I will offer up my own thoughts for deconstruction.
As noted above, bond investors pulled the trigger on the safety play and bought up Treasuries today. This sent yields down and closer again to short-term rates. In tandem, housing stocks soared today. Several that I follow, like PHM, CTX, and LEN, hit or came close to 52-week highs. Add to this the fact that stocks rallied strongly and the dollar continues to look strong (sorry Warren Buffet!), you can get a picture of an economy that is doing just fine. In fact, I am betting the Fed looks at all this as further confirmation that the economy is quite healthy and fully capable of swallowing even higher rates. But if the markets now combine fear of an economic slowdown from an over-active Fed with a fear of heightened terrorist risks, long-term rates will continue to languish. This on-going failure to respond to the rise in short-term rates remains a troubling "conundrum" to the Federal Reserve. This conundrum is further highlighted by a stock market insisting on betting on sustained economic robustness while the bond market does the opposite…and now this plays out in the shadow of potentially growing geo-political risks.
Nevertheless, the Fed has proven to be persistent. It will continue to move to try to cool down perceived inflationary threats. Some folks are getting excited about a scenario where the Fed actually reverses course to lower rates in deference to these increased. Some European banks have already been lowering rates in response to a bleak economic outlook in the Eurozone (note how strong the dollar has gotten versus European currencies), but I highly doubt the Fed will get the rate cut bug anytime too soon…at least not under these current conditions. They have set their course and will remain more tuned in to strength than weakness.
All in all,
these attacks have only strengthened the determination around the world to defeat
terrorism. In fact, even the Egyptian
president has declared a "war of annihilation" against terrorists as
they have escalated attacks against Egyptian interests in