Dow Diary: Trying to Be Brave

Dear Diary, Pow! After today’s come-from-behind victory, I’m tacking a few extra points onto yesterday’s gains. I spent a lot

Dear Diary,

Pow! After today’s come-from-behind victory, I’m tacking a few extra points onto yesterday’s gains. I spent a lot of the day in the red, but around 2 p.m., managed to turn things around. Now here I am, with a modest victory: 22 points up today, up 5.8 percent so far in September and up 1.6 percent year to date.

As has often been the case lately, I mainly have my technology stocks — Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Intel (INTC) in particular — to thank. Also, weekly jobless claims fell. I’m not totally sold on that as a positive, because that number fluctuates wildly. The Senate also passed Obama’s weird $30 billion small-business stimulus package. Not really sure whether that’s gonna do much good, but I’m willing to hold out a little hope.

Despite the win — and let’s not forget it’s a win — there’s still a lot for me to worry about. For one, trading volume has remained super light lately, meaning that there isn’t a lot of conviction behind these rallies. And like I said yesterday, I took a good look at FedEx’s (FDX) earnings today, and what did they have for me? Weaker-than-expected guidance, and maybe even worse, layoffs! 1,700 delivery guys (and girls) losing their jobs. Not only is that a bummer emotionally, it means the economy isn’t doing so hot. (FedEx is what we in the business call an “economic bellwether.”)

I hate when the economy’s in the gutter.

That’s not all. Some of the data today was really disturbing. The number of Americans living in poverty is basically at its highest ever. Now I’m no bleeding-heart, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that a growing number of poor people isn’t good for anybody. I’m not the only one who’s scared. Gold prices hit a new record high today. People buy gold for two reasons: 1) they think it’s pretty; 2) they’re concerned that a major economic shock is looming. Suffice it to say — you don’t get record premiums on a heavy yellow metal just because it looks fancy.

I’m also a little worried about economic saber-rattling between the U.S. and China over the valuation of the yuan. Nothing like a little protectionism to damage an already soft economy. Yeesh.

As I look through all this, I’m having a hard time figuring out how I managed to end the day on the upside. I hardly even feel like the same stock index that wrote that first paragraph. I guess sometimes we don’t really know why we do things; we just do them.

And on tap for tomorrow: Inflation data in the form of the consumer-price index, and a consumer-sentiment survey from the University of Michagan. Hoping inflation doesn’t become too much of a concern, or the Federal Reserve is going to have a real hard time knowing how hard to push the economic throttle. Thank goodness there are no earnings releases scheduled; after FedEx I hardly have the appetite for it.

Trying to hold on to my optimism. Something tells me I’m in for a rough one tomorrow. We’ll have to wait and see.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average Dow Diary: Trying to Be Brave