Friday morning the big number, the BLS Employment Situation, landed with a thud. The unemployment rate drifted down to 9.5%, private sector jobs increased by 83,000, the non-farm payroll employment loss was 125,000 and the birth/death rate adjustment figure was 144,000. Government jobs shed 90,000 and 652,000 job seekers left the market. Two-hundred twenty-five thousand temporary census workers were let go. The average workweek fell 0.1% to 34.1 hours and the average earnings also fell 0.1%.
Before we pick up our swords and shields in the third quarter to do battle for gains and profits with a rising Euro, a weakening dollar, massive state and local spending cuts, possibly minimum wage wages for California state employees, a chronically ill housing market, fugitive employment and falling consumer confidence, let’s review the barrel we found ourselves spinning in throughout the second quarter.
The second quarter was one of the most brutal trading quarters I have seen in 27 years, in investing. Here are a few second quarter headline stats from the WSJ MarketBeat Blog: for the DJIA - down 1082.61 points, or 9.97% to 9774.02, the worst quarterly performance since 1st Quarter 2009; S&P 500 Index - down 138.72 points, or 11.86% to 1030.71, the worst quarterly performance since 4th Quarter 2008; and NASDAQ - down 288.72 points, or 12.04% to 2109.24, the worst quarterly performance since 4th Quarter 2008.
These loses are comparable to those we experienced when we were in the thick of the meltdown. Unlike the express elevator to hell we were trapped in the last half of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, this was a Six Flags rollercoaster ride that took our cash, our lunch, and our sanity. Investors should not hold their heads down in shame. Professionals did not trade this quarter well either. If this quarter had been a boxing match they would have stopped it. This was not an investors’ market and the last week in the quarter told the story.
Referees stop fights when fighters can no longer protect themselves in the ring. Boxers cannot block punches, jab, counterpunch, move on their feet, or throw a combination. Their eyes have a glassy stare. They are unaware of their circumstance.
The last week of the month and quarter is for profit taking and window dressing. Markets are purposely traded. This market, this week, responded not at all based on its whereabouts. Compare the first quarter to the second quarter.
In the first quarter, the market rallied from the start of the year until January 19th. It sold off until the first week in February. Then, it counterpunched and fought it way back to new yearly highs to end the quarter. The beginning of April saw the same fight in the market. A rotation in sectors kept the market moving forward. Traditional punches landed but did little damage to the rally.
Before the second quarter bell ranged, on March 29th, the 7-year Greek auction bombed. On April 19th, the yield spread between Greek and German bonds hit 469 basis points. Then, on April 20th, the BP oil spill occurred. These events rocked the market. On May 6th, the flash crash occurred and markets never really recovered. The market staggered for the rest of May. Investors should have exited the market here. Money managers were tightly clenched throughout June by FinReg negotiations in Washington. Markets and investors set themselves up to win the second quarter on points with improving economic data being released this week. The improvement in the economy did not materialize.
A market hurt and running out of gas whose only hope of surviving was avoiding any more blows and to catch a break. Luck turned out not to be a lady, but rather, a loud, nasty, violent drunk. The oil spill worsened with failed attempts to cap the well, accompanied by pictures of gulf coast estuaries being damaged, innocent wildlife being murdered, and the first hurricane to enter the Gulf of Mexico in June in 15 years. Also, actions of austerity around the world by governments – our allies - were counterproductive to the US economy recovery narrative. The Euro’s fall reversed. The unemployment picture did not improve.
The rally from the spring of 2009 was predicated on the assumption that economic recovery would support higher valuations. Without significant improvement going forward, the markets were overvalued. The only market that withstood the shots of international governmental policies, macroeconomic trends, and supply/demand curves was the mellow yellow – Gold. Au – 196.9665, which refused to be knocked out.
One of the most stunning championship fights in history was the 1965 rematch between, then, current Heavyweight Champion Mohammed Ali and former Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston. For years, boxing fans argued about the “phantom punch” which knocked out Liston in the first round. Today, we’re still debating what caused the May 6th flash crash. The bottom line is that the explanation or truth for either event is moot; history has recorded Sonny Liston’s loss in a small auditorium in Lewiston, Maine and the 1,000 point drop within minutes did grave technical and psychological damage to the markets.
This third quarter market is no longer the same cyclical bull rally that began in the spring of 2009. The bell has rung, the secular bear is advancing across the ring and he is fighting mad.