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Gary Smith’s Market Take

Here’s my take on the markets today, August 17, 2012. If you’d like to read more of my articles, click here.

Credit gauges are mixed today. The Germany sovereign cds is falling -5.2% to 56.25 bps. The France sovereign cds is down -4.6% to 130.12 bps. The Spain sovereign cds is down -3.4% to 476.41 bps. The Italy sovereign cds is down -2.5% to 421.96 bps. However, the FRA/OIS Spread is gaining +3.5% to 29.0 bps. The 3M EUR/USD Cross-Currency Basis Swap is falling -5.7% to -35.41 bps. The 2Y Swap Spread is rising +1.5% to 21.5 bps. The UK sovereign cds is gaining +.5% to 55.25 bps. The Italian 10Y Yld is rising +.5% to 5.82%. The Italian/German 10Y Yld Spread is gaining +1.3% to 432.17 bps. The Emerging Markets Sovereign CDS Index is rising +.4% to 245.70 bps. The Russia sovereign cds is up +1.3% to 173.0 bps. The Israel sovereign cds is rising another +1.4% today to 170.21 bps(+21.0% this week). Overall, gauges were mixed this week and remain at stressed levels.

Major Asian indices were mixed overnight as a +.9% gain in Australia was offset by a -.6% loss in South Korea. The Shanghai Comp continues to sit out the global equity rally. It is down -2.5% this week and very close to a multi-year low even as global investors continue to anticipate a major new Chinese stimulus round. I continue to believe the problems in China are severe and will have a larger impact on the global economy than perceived. Major European indices are rallying again today, led by a +1.9% gain in Spain. The Bloomberg European Bank/Financial Services Index is up +1.5%. Brazil is down -.6% today.

The euro continues to trade poorly and is heavy today despite the equity rally in Italy and Spain. Oil continues to trade well and is up another +.5% despite SPR release talk and a weaker euro. Copper is firming up the last 2 days, rising +1.0% today, but continues to look lower-longer term. Shanghai Copper inventories have jumped 92.7% this week. The benchmark China Iron/Ore Spot Index is falling another -1.5% today and has plunged -39.1% since 9/7/11. The UBS-Bloomberg Ag Spot Index is rising another +1.0% today and is +24.3% higher since 6/1.

The situation in the Mid-east is rapidly unraveling again which is helping to push energy prices higher(gas +.30/gallon in a month) with retail sales already at sluggish rates. A poll from Reuters today showed economists think the odds of QE3 have risen to 60% from 50% in July. I continue to believe the odds of imminent QE3 are very low given soaring food/energy prices, a +28 bps surge in the TIPS spread, a large rally in stocks, less eurozone debt angst and less pessimistic US economic data. There have been numerous bomb threats at theaters around the country today. The market continues to ignore almost all  negatives as investors focus on another apparent euro debt crisis can-kicking, which remains a short-term positive. Complacency is now at a fairly high level given the macro backdrop. The VIX is plunging -6.4% to 13.4, which is the lowest since before the last financial crisis hit. I added to my index trading hedges this morning and I’m positioned 25% net long.

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