Unimpressive Stock Action

This morning, Wall Street traders and brokers will wake up and say, “Goodbye February.” After seeing all of 2007’s stock gains wiped out this past Tuesday, people who make their living selling stocks are welcoming this first day of March with optimism.

It was Shakespeare that coined the famous phrase “beware the ides of March,” which specifically refers to March 15. Unfortunately, this economic poet doesn’t see March as being a good month for stocks. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see another stock “surprise” on the downside before mid-month.

Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with the stock market’s rebound yesterday from Tuesday’s stock meltdown. I’m not even sure we can call it a rebound.

Historically, one-day stock market dives are followed by rallies that often last days. Sometimes they are called “bargain buying.” But technically speaking, the bigger the rebound after any one-day selloff, the less serious the technical damage of the selloff to the market.

But yesterday, we didn’t have a solid rebound… and that worries me. I’ve often written about the massive amount of liquidity in the economic system. That liquidity didn’t buy stocks yesterday and that’s a big negative sign for stock market.

There’s an estimated US$2.4 trillion stashed in money market funds — a new record. Unfortunately, that cash didn’t come out yesterday to buy stocks like it usually does after market meltdowns like the one we experienced Tuesday.

Several government reports are painting pictures of reduced investment by businesses. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, business investment in the U.S. in January 2007 fell at the fastest rate since January 2004.

So, we have loads of liquidity not chasing stocks, American businesses awash in cash they are not spending, and American consumers reducing their spending because they have either borrowed too much or are experiencing higher interest costs: All adding credence to my belief that stocks will not outperform the return of T-bills this year.

NEWSFLASH — U.S. new home sales dropped last month by the most in 13 years, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. January new home sales in the U.S. fell 16.6%. Toll Brothers, the big U.S. builder, also just reported that its fiscal first quarter profit plummeted 67%. Bad news for the U.S. housing and construction market continues. How can it not affect the U.S. economy?