COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Stocks are on a slippery slope right now. The Dow industrials have been down in four of the past five sessions and things are looking rather bleak this morning. Sam Stovall of S&P Capital IQ said even though the Fed did not raise interest rates last week they did manage to elevate uncertainty and volatility. "In the past 30 days, the S&P 500 experienced intra-day high-low price action in excess of 1 percent 23 times, equal to the sum over the prior four months," said Stovall, who believes the market could re-test the recent lows but will not fall into a bear market.

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Investors are cautious today ahead of Janet Yellen's speech tonight after the market closes. For some reason there is always great anticipation the Fed chair will make some announcement or utter a newsworthy statement during her presentation. In reality, Fed officials follow a very tight script and rarely saying anything new or of importance. But you never know. Well, actually, we do know nothing will come out of the talk tonight.

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Weighing down the Dow industrials today are shares of Caterpillar. The heavy equipment company said it is beginning a major restructuring that will lead to the loss of about 10,000 jobs by the end of 2018. With 111,000 employees worldwide, the company could probably handle the cuts simply through attrition. Shares are down more than 6 percent in early trading. Caterpillar is one of the 30 stocks in the Dow.

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Speaking of jobs, the DOL reports this morning initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 3,000 to 267,000. The number has been below 300K for 29 consecutive weeks.

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ExxonMobil has put on hold plans to repair the Torrance refinery damaged in February. It had been the major source of gasoline for the Southern California region for many years and, as a result of the damage, the loss of gas supply has held pump prices high here. The company has been negotiating with the Air Quality Control District in Los Angeles to take steps to get the refinery back online but has been road-blocked by environmentalist and others. So, XOM said yesterday it will drop any plans to get back online until mid-2016 when a permanent repair, which meets certain standards, are available. This means our prices here will remain about 50 cents higher than the nation for quite some time.

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