Monday, April 5, 2010

Recovery? Really really?

Let me state from the outset that I am not a professional in any of the following industries: economics, law, actuarial science, health / wellness, or making quilts out of belly button lint. (Okay, maybe that last one will never be an issue here but I wanted full transparency.)

When I normally sit down to write a blog entry, I scan through the previous weeks' tweets that I made to remind myself of the topics that I thought were important. (I originally stated that this was a secondary benefit to using Twitter, but that has since been promoted to the primary benefit.) But this week one article, entitled Stocks Soar, but Many Analysts Ask Why, stayed front and center with no tweeting required.

The basic premise of the article is (no surprise here) that the stock market has "happy ears" on in a big way. You all know what "happy ears" are: it's the way you perked up when you overheard your parents talking around mid-December about that Red Ryder Carbine Action Air Rifle you've had your eye on. You heard this and expected a big payout come Christmas morning only to find out that your parents were discussing how the neighbor's kid down the street got one and shot their eye out. That's similar to what the stock market is experiencing now. They see a generally upward trend in the DJIA and immediately claim a victory over the dark demons of the recent recession.

But hold on pardner! There are a few things that are worrisome.

The housing market. The housing market is far from strong at the moment. In fact, an article that I subsequently read indicated that the spread between seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted figures is widening, which indicates instability in the market. Worse, the general lack of reaction to the news that the U.S. Government will stop buying mortgage backed bonds seems to show that "complacency is seeping back into the financial system" (as stated by that article).

The employment "market." Unemployment still isn't down by any substantial amount. Granted, things aren't as bad as they were before but that's like saying the Ford F150 hole in the New Orleans dikes are now the size of a Honda Fit, i.e. they are still bad enough to warrant substantial concern. Looking at the monthly figures (rather than weekly, like you probably hear on the news), February had an increase in unemployment over January, and the same is true with March vs. February although the rate of loss continued to lessen.

This viewpoint is supported by ADP that reported on Wednesday that 23,000 jobs were lost in March when economists had predicted an increase of 40,000 jobs instead. (The difference between this and the Department of Labor report that was released on Friday is that the latter includes temporary jobs like census workers, etc. which really shouldn't be included.)

In spite of the fact that financial services professionals are exuberant about the market, I'll make the claim that these two 800 pound gorillas are quite evident by simply looking at the 52-week graph of the DJIA. Even though the value of the index has increased, the volume has been weak overall with only 27.5% of the previous 365 days exhibiting volume over 1 billion shares traded. (This may have been a great thing in the late 90's, but these days 1 billion shares really isn't anything worth writing home about.) The lack of volume is a strong indicator of a lack of momentum, price increases notwithstanding.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you aren't able to at least agree that I raise a valid point there are plenty of stock brokers ready to take their commissions from your trading accounts while you continue to buy stocks that you expect to appreciate. And if I am right, the commissions will only be adding insult to injury as the loss of principal accumulates.

But hey...I'm not an economist right?

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