Wall Street, Asian markets stumble, U.S. jobs disappoint


WASHINGTON, April 8, 2013 – Major Asian stock markets dropped this morning, following through on the Friday’s disastrous U.S. jobs report. Wall Street followed suit Monday morning, adding modestly to Friday’s declines. In an Asian countertrend this morning, however, Japan’s Nikkei index added to gains as the yen’s dramatic fall boosted the country’s previously moribund export sector.

The Japanese yen has weakened sharply after a surprise decision Thursday by the Bank of Japan to overhaul its monetary policy. The Central Bank pledged to double the money supply to achieve a 2 percent inflation target within two years.

Good luck with that. BOJ has apparently decided to follow the lead of the American Fed in attempting to inflate its way out of its uniquely pernicious deflationary economy which has persisted in that country since the early 1990s.

Nothing much else to report today as the market will continue to meander, dreading the launch of the Q1 2013 “earnings season” with traditional early reporter Alcoa (AA) reporting numbers after today’s close.

Alcoa, a Dow Jones Industrial stock representing the materials sector, has a tradition of reporting neutral to moderately rosy numbers and forecasts which, after a few hours’ analysis, usually hide continuing bad news hiding in the balance sheet of this perennial disappointer. This, in turn, could sour the mood for trading later this week, as the headline-hungry HFTs will seize upon anything negative as an excuse to dump holdings.

Friday’s jobs report, muddy and underreported as it was, gives us a real clue as to what’s been going on in the economy since President Obama’s vaunted “rescue plan” was implemented early in 2008: precisely nothing. The President and his party’s Mad Men have made the following issues a priority since his election to a first term:

  • Increasing government spending via Obamacare;
  • increasing taxpayer funding for wind and solar energy, even as battery companies, like bankrupt A123 (recently sold to China), the notorious Solyndra (bankrupt), and now taxpayer-funded, foreign owned luxury electric car manufacturer Fisker (declared bankruptcy Friday) consistently fail and lay off employes;
  • cutting back oil drilling in the Gulf, preventing the Keystone pipeline from moving ahead, and pushing relentlessly to set up a system of carbon credits and extra taxes to fight (now discredited) “global warming climate change;”
  • opening the floodgates for illegal immigrants to become citizens on the fast track, adding further to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamp costs while simultaneously adding millions of Democrats to voter rolls in Red States like Texas;
  • weakening American defensive capabilities all around the globe precisely when they need to be strengthened;
  • embarking on yet another serial attempt to gut the 2nd Amendment and disarm the population.

So, where do we see actually jobs coming out of all these taxpayer funded “investments?”

In all these endeavors, the Maven would have to judge this administration as having been extraordinarily successful or nearly so on all counts save the last one. But the problem is, all these “successes” have been devastating to job creation, merely adding to the tax burdens of those individuals and businesses who are still, well, in business; while wasting tax dollars on quixotic pursuits that make rich faux leftists feel better about their unfair advantages over the rest of the populace yet retaining every bit of their unfair advantages.

In none of these endeavors is there even a hint of job creation, save for the massive increase in the number of unionized, taxpayer-supported Federal and state government employees who will be “needed” to administer the impossibly complex tenets of Obamacare, most of which have yet to be definitively interpreted save for the tax parts.

All this is starting to weigh on a market that started smartly out the gate in January and became rapidly oversold. It also converges with the “Sell in May” mantra that looks to be commencing early this year.

It’s a treacherous environment overall, with local and national politicians focusing far more attention on hunters and Big Gulp aficionados than they do on the economy or on the collapsing house of cards otherwise known as international governments and monetary policies.

Big Gulp banning gets lots of positive headlines from the lapdog media, while issues like this, not to mention gun control, distract from the fact that most politicos are doing precisely nothing to fix the problems that they and their crony capitalist supporters have caused.

In other words, the market environment is increasingly poisonous. In general, we are sticking to utility stocks, the utility ETF (XLU), and, perhaps, the beleaguered telcos, which failed to participate in the 2013 rally and thus remain high-yielding bargains in our book. Slip in a small portion of TIPS-based ETFs, (we use Schwab’s SCHP), and we’re still raising cash while paying off some bills.

On balance, we’d be far happier now if the country were in the hands of the kind of guys we see depicted on the popular TV series “Mad Man.” The show opened its umpteenth season on Sunday, and the rapacious gents represented therein would clearly have done a better job putting together a recovery than Washington’s current gang of phony “progressive” kleptocrats.

There will likely be some money made in the market later this year, and perhaps even now in some short positions. But when the Fed is printing money aimed toward buoying stocks, shorting is still awfully risky as we learned when we tried it even in last week’s miserable environment.

That said, we’ll keep our eyes open for deals. Otherwise, as Smoky the Bear used to say: “Stay Alert! Stay Alive!”


Disclaimer: The author of this column maintains several active trading and investment portfolios and owns residential and investment real estate.

Any positions mentioned above describe this author’s own investment decisions and should not be construed as either buy or sell recommendations. The current market is highly treacherous and all investors travel at their own risk. Caution should be exercised at all times.  

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17