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Financial Market Uncertainty Escalates as Presidential Election Bringing "Change"

ElectionOracle / US Presidential Election Nov 03, 2008 - 12:59 PM GMT

By: Money_Morning

ElectionOracle Best Financial Markets Analysis Article William Patalon III writes: Come Wednesday morning – after the presidential election tomorrow (Tuesday) – the United States will have a new commander-in-chief. The president-elect will face some significant challenges: A weak economy (okay, a recession, given last week's gross domestic product (GDP) report , which confirmed just how dire the country's economic situation had become).

While this week's data from the manufacturing and housing sectors will be eagerly anticipated, nothing compares to Friday's reports on unemployment and the picture of the ailing labor market.  After nine consecutive months of job contraction, few analysts hold out much hope for optimism.  In fact, some believe the jobless rate will climb to 7.5% during 2009.

Clearly the new president will have some major problems to solve, perhaps the biggest being that he'll have to find a way to restore investor confidence.

After all that's happened in the global economy and in the stock market in recent weeks – with the tremendous whipsaw volatility, that will be easier said than done.

Even so, watch this week as Money Morning carries several investment reports that will tell you what to expect, what to avoid, and where you may potentially profit.

Stay tuned.

Market Matters

For most investors, Halloween was a welcome treat from the haunted trickery of the markets over prior few weeks.  In fact, despite some frightful economic releases that virtually confirmed recession (as already noted), the major equity indexes received a nice reprieve this past week as investors moved beyond mass hysteria and found bargains in the carnage.  On Tuesday alone, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor's 500 Index each shot up more than 10%, and then proceeded with their remarkable (if not illogical) runs as the week continued.

Despite the positive moves, the Dow plunged by 14% in October, while the S&P 500 lost about 17%, making it among the worst performing months in over two decades.  The volatility was almost too much for investors to bear as the Dow experienced triple digits moves from open to close on all but three trading sessions.  Global markets underwent similar gyrations, with Hong Kong's major index – the Hang Seng Index , for example, plunging 12.7% one day before soaring 14.4% the very next session. 

The recent panic seemed to have subsided as some of the stimulus packages began to take effect.  The credit markets have thawed as corporations took advantage of the Fed's decision to buy short-term commercial paper , thus, providing them much needed liquidity.  Major banks began receiving capital injections from the government as part of the bailout package and were “told” (in no uncertain terms) by their new “partner” to re-initiate lending programs.

Capital One Financial Corp. ( COF ) and Sun Trust Banks Inc. ( STI ) chose to be participate in the government's generosity by selling preferred stock and warrants, though both were rumored to be eyeing weaker institutions as acquisition targets – a a strategy that may have differed from the Bush Administration's goal of enhanced lending. [ Editor's Note : For an in-depth report on U.S. bank's using government  money to mount takeover campaigns – instead of for increased lending --  please click here. The report is free of charge].

The week's quarterly earnings releases were mixed at best though companies continued to warn about future weakness (which will hopefully lead to some positive surprises).  Exxon-Mobil Corp. ( XOM ) reaped another record quarter and rival Chevron Corp. ( CVX ) – the subject of a recent “Buy, Sell or Hold” featurue here at Money Morning pin jwwwwsaw its profits double during the period.  Bear in mind, crude has plunged over 50% since mid-July (and suffered its worst monthly decline on record) so their future results may not be as strong. 

United States Steel Corp. ( X ) announced favorable earnings, athough it also warned that weakness in commodities could impact its operations. The Procter & Gamble Co. ( PG ) experienced a better-than-expected quarter, though management reduced its sales estimates for the remainder of the year.  Motorola Inc. ( MOT ) announced a quarterly loss and laid off 3,000 workers to cut expenses.  General Motors Corp. ( GM ) and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR. HMC ) both reported poor quarters, as automakers struggled worldwide.                        

Market/ Index

Year Close (2007)

Qtr Close (09/30/08)

Previous Week

Current Week

YTD Change

Dow Jones Industrial












S&P 500






Russell 2000






Fed Funds





-325 bps

10 yr Treasury (Yield)





-7 bps

Economically Speaking

For days, weeks, months, maybe even years, analysts warned about the dreaded “R” word and, with each new report, the inevitability of such a downturn became more and more possible.

The afore-mentioned third-quarter GDP report confirmed that the economy actually contracted by 0.3% during the period, the worst results in seven years.  By definition, two straight quarters of negative growth translates into a recession, so the economy is officially halfway there (especially since the fourth quarter data is shaping up to be just as depressing).

Sluggish consumer activity highlighted the GDP report, as consumer spending plunged by 3.1% during the quarter. Such activity accounts for about 70% of the growth of the economy, so the ongoing concerns about future employment, market losses, and housing valuations (among others) have kept consumers out of the malls. And those reports now to significantly hinder the upcoming holiday season.  In fact, a recent BDO Seidman survey showed that retail-marketing execs believe their November and December sales will fall by 2.7% from the same periods last year.

On an even more pessimistic note, consumer confidence in October fell to its lowest level ever reported.

Almost lost in the negativity was the fact that new home sales actually climbed by an unexpected 2.7% in September, as bottom fishers found some bargains within the worst housing market in decades.  Still, sales remained more than 30% behind last year's levels.

The central bankers continued their (somewhat coordinated) efforts to stem the global economic slowdown.  U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and friends announced a half-percentage-point cut in the Fed Funds rate, reducing its target for that benchmark for U.S. interest rate. It was the second such move in October.

Some Fed watchers believe that policymakers could drop the rate even lower as conditions seem worse today than when that rate touched this level – in 2003.  Others feel that such moves have become more symbolic than substantive , and believe the Fed needs to halt future actions to let the lower rates work their ways through the system and begin impacting the economy over the next six to 12 months. 

In other moves, central bankers in South Korea, China, and Norway each reduced their respective rates, and the European Central Bank (ECB) appears to be leaning toward a similar cut next week.

Weekly Economic Calendar

Date Release Comments
October 27 New Home Sales (09/08) Unexpected 2.7% rise confirms slight sector rebound
October 28 Consumer Confidence (10/08) Worst level ever reported since index started in 1967
October 29 Durable Goods Orders (09/08) Surprising surge in orders for big ticket items
Fed Policy Meeting Statement 2nd 50 bps point cut this month
October 30 Initial Jobless Claims (10/18/08) Claims flat from prior week's level
GDP (3rd quarter) Economy contracted by 0.3% last quarter
October 31 Personal Income/Spending (09/08) Largest drop in spending in over 4 years
The Week Ahead
November 3 Construction Spending (09/08)
ISM - Manu Index (10/08)
November 4 Factory Orders (09/08)
November 5 ISM – Services (10/08)
November 6 Initial Jobless Claims (10/25/08)
November 7 Unemployment Rate (10/08)
Nonfarm Payroll Additions (10/08)
Consumer Credit (09/08)


By William Patalon III
Executive Editor

Money Morning/The Money Map Report

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