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February 23, 2012 at 09:29 AM EST
Market Is Eerily Quiet and Non-Volatile.
Thursday, February 23, 2012. 9:25 a.m. The Dow has been making a number of new highs over the last couple of weeks, in fact closed at a new high two days ago, touching 13,000 intraday in the process. But in fact the gains have been so small and inconsistent that the Dow is only 76 [...]

Thursday, February 23, 2012. 9:25 a.m.

The Dow has been making a number of new highs over the last couple of weeks, in fact closed at a new high two days ago, touching 13,000 intraday in the process.

But in fact the gains have been so small and inconsistent that the Dow is only 76 points, or 0.6%, higher than it was two and half weeks ago on February 3rd.

And it’s not just the 30-stock Dow index. The broad NYSE Composite is only 0.4% higher. The Nasdaq has done better, but is less than 1% higher over the same period. The Russell 2000 index is actually 1.7% lower, while the DJ Transportation Avg is 4.5% lower than it was on February 3rd.

It’s also interesting that the market’s internal strength indicators are not confirming the fractional new highs, making lower highs themselves.

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Is it possible Wall Street’s big program-trading firms (the major banks and brokerage firms) are using their buy programs at the right moments to keep the Dow at fractional new highs to give the illusion the market is stronger than it is?

In my 1999 book Riding the Bear – How to Prosper in the Coming Bear Market I described how in the old days before regulations, at market tops the big market manipulators, John D. Rockefeller, Joseph P. Kennedy, Bernard Baruch, et al, would ‘paint the tape’, buying a few key stocks enough to hold their prices up. The goal was to create public confidence of a continuing strong market while they carefully unloaded their holdings in the rest of the market into the strength of continued public buying.

Now, I know that kind of manipulation couldn’t happen in the modern market.

But isn’t it interesting how the Dow is holding up so well, making these fractional new highs thanks to strength in a few key stocks, while the rest of the market is moving no better than sideways, all the while with corporate insiders selling heavily while investor confidence is at high levels of bullishness and confidence.

Another indication of the need to be cautious, informed and alert?

To read my weekend newspaper column ‘Two Years of Fears Have Disappeared!Click here.

Subscribers to Street Smart Report: The new issue of the newsletter is on the website from yesterday afternoon and a hotline from last evening (both in the subscribers’ area of the Street Smart Report website).

Yesterday in the U.S. Market.

The Dow reached 13,000 for a few minutes on Tuesday, but the market was somewhat to the downside yesterday, on low volume of 0.7 billion shares on the NYSE.

The Dow closed down 27 points, or 0.2%. The S&P 500 closed down 0.3%. The NYSE Composite closed down 0.3%. The Nasdaq closed down 0.5%. The Nasdaq 100 closed down 0.4%. The Russell 2000 closed down 0.8%. The DJ Transportation Avg. closed down 0.7%. The DJ Utilities Avg closed unchanged.

Gold closed up another $20 an ounce at $1,779, now up $56 for the week so far.

Oil closed down $0.27 a barrel at $105.98 after 4 straight up-days.

The U.S. dollar etf UUP closed up 0.1%.

But the U.S. Treasury bond etf TLT closed up 1.3%.

Yesterday in European Markets.

European markets were also down some yesterday. The London FTSE closed down 0.2%. The German DAX closed down 0.9%. France closed down 0.5%.

Asian Markets Were Down Last Night.

The DJ Asia-Pacific Index closed down 0.7%.

Among individual markets:

Australia closed down 0.2%. China closed up 0.3%. Hong Kong closed down 0.8%. India closed down 0.4%. Indonesia closed down 0.9%. Japan closed up 0.4%. Malaysia closed down 0.4%. New Zealand closed down 0.2%. South Korea closed down 1.0%. Singapore closed down 0.9%. Taiwan closed down 0.8%. Thailand closed up 0.2%.

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Markets This Morning.

European markets are mixed this morning. The London FTSE is up 0.2%. Germany’s DAX is down 0.6%. France’s CAC is down 0.2%

Oil is up $0.03 a barrel at $106.31.

Gold is up another $3 an ounce at $1,782 an ounce.

This morning in the U.S. Market:

This week is a very light week for potential market-moving economic reports, but they will include Existing Home Sales, New Home Sales, and Consumer Sentiment. To see the full list click here, and look at the left side of the page it takes you to.

There are no important economic reports Monday or  Tuesday.

Yesterday it was that existing home sales rose 4.3% in January. But previously reported sales for December were revised down sharply, from the previously reported gain of 5.0% to a 0.5% decline. However, the inventory of unsold houses fell to a 7-year low.

This morning’s report so far was that new unemployment claims were unchanged last week at 351,000, with the 4-week m.a. falling to 359,000 the lowest level since March, 2008.

Still to come is the FHFA Home Price Index at 10 a.m., not usually an important or market-moving report.

Our Pre-Open Indicators:

Our pre-open indicators are pointing to the Dow being down 25 points or so in the early going this morning.

To read my weekend newspaper column ‘Two Years of Fears Have Disappeared!Click here.

Subscribers to Street Smart Report: The new issue of the newsletter is on the website from yesterday afternoon, and a hotline from last evening (both in the subscribers’ area of the Street Smart Report website).

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I’ll be back Saturday morning with the regular Saturday morning post, as usual later than the week-day posts, probably around 11:00 a.m. eastern time. (This blog appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning!).

**** End of Today’s post*****

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