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Thursday, August 22, 2013

NASDAQ Flash Freeze and Digesting the FOMC Minutes

The U.S. stock indexes closed higher today. The Nasdaq was shut down for three hours in the afternoon, and that took some buying interest away from all the indexes. The stock index bulls still have the overall near term technical advantage, but are fading. The market place had some time to digest Wednesday afternoon's FOMC minutes that revealed no clear consensus from FOMC members on when to start to wind down the Fed's monthly bond buying program, also known as quantitative easing.

While the minutes were not all that different from the last minutes of the FOMC that were released several weeks ago, the “take away” the market place garnered from this latest Fed event was that “tapering” of quantitative easing is coming, and likely sooner rather than later. The FOMC minutes reinforced ideas that the long, long road of very easy money from the world's major central banks will reach an end in the coming months. Such was deemed bullish for the U.S. dollar, and bearish for world bond markets and periphery currencies. U.S. 10 year note yields hit a two year high of 2.925% overnight. German and U.K. bond yields also hit multi year highs overnight. Asian currency and financial markets remained strained Thursday.

The Indian rupee and Turkish lira hit new record lows versus the U.S. dollar Thursday. Indian and Indonesian central bank officials have taken steps to stabilize their currencies, but with only very limited success. There are worries about an “Asian contagion” that has in the past roiled markets worldwide. Rising interest rates in the major world economies have put pressure on the periphery currencies. Chinese manufacturing data Thursday showed improvement from the prior month.

The HSBC purchasing managers index rose to 50.1 in August from 47.7 in July. A reading over 50.0 suggests economic growth. China is the world's second- largest economy, but the leading worldwide importer of many key raw commodities. The China data somewhat assuaged the Asian markets, but the concerns of an Asian contagion outweighed the positive China data. Traders and investors have moved the ongoing Egypt unrest to the back burner for the moment, as there are no major, new developments there.

However, any escalation in violence is likely to impact the market place. News reports that Syria has used chemical weapons against its civilians, with hundreds killed, is a matter that will be closely monitored by the market place, and is yet another geopolitical hotspot that could flare up to become a major markets factor.

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