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Money Daily has been providing business and financial market news, views, and coverage on a nearly continuous basis since 2006. Complete archives are available at moneydaily.blogspot.com.

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BLS Says Employment Up 216,000 Jobs in December, Much to the Dismay of Wall Street Pivot Pushers

Friday, January 5, 2024, 9:21 am ET

The first week of the new year ends with a visit to the BLS and their estimation on the level of employment in America, the monthly non-farm payroll reading. The measure, having been roundly criticized for being politicized and otherwise massaged, mangled, and manipulated, still will have a bearing on trading. Expectations for something less than the estimate of 175,000 new jobs were dashed when the number came in hot, adding 216,000 jobs in December.

Shocking as it may seem to Fed followers hoping for signs of a slowdown, the unemployment rate remained steady at 3.7% and there's not even a whiff of weakness in the US labor force. The release saw stock futures - which were already losing ground - collapse to the lows of the morning.

As the sentiment on Wall Street has centered around the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates as early as March, recent data - and specially employment data - hasn't exactly played to their preferred narrative. The US economy appears to have kept its resiliency and may in fact be improving, if these employment numbers are to be believed. Of course, it being an election year, the current occupiers of power in Washington, DC would prefer what seems to be developing. The economy continues to chug along, employment remains strong, and inflation appears to have been defeated.

Could it be that the very same people calling for the Fed to pivot last year are once again wrong, this year? That certainly seems to be the case.

After two months of rally mode, stocks haven't had the best of weeks. In fact, the first three trading sessions have been the worst to begin a year since 2008, a sobering assessment. As of Thursday's close, the Dow is down 249 points; the NASDAQ is off 501 (-3.34%); the S&P is off 81 points, and the NYSE Composite has shed 137. Unless there's some extraordinarily positive development on Friday, the major indices will see their weekly winning streak end at nine straight.

Thursday's trading had all the makings of a revival, until stocks began to slide once again as the lunch hour approached. The NASDAQ and S&P both ended in the red, with the former falling a fifth straight session, the S&P losing ground for a fourth consecutive session. Dow Industrials struggled to stay above the unchanged line and did so, barely.

Elsewhere, gold took the employment news badly, losing $15 in the blink on an eye on the BLS data dump, the belief being that gold needs misery to prosper, which is anything but a proven reality. Silver took the news a bit better, holding just above $23/ounce, though the day is still young. Crude oil continues to be rangebound between $70 and $75 for WTI, hovering around $73/barrel this morning.

Yield on the 10-year note has been bouncing back and forth between 3.85 and 4.00% all week, hitting the high end of that range on multiple occasions and then pulling back. The 10-year hasn't yielded 4.00% or higher since it was crestfallen on December 14, helping to fuel the Santa Claus Rally. As stocks and long-dated maturities have both been under pressure to open the new year, it seems all the toys and goodies Santa brought are being broken by the bratty kids running money on Wall Street.

It's a distressing condition that now appears to be developing into something more than tax-incentivized selling. Friday's trading will go a long way toward offering an indication of what lay ahead for the remainder of the month and the year. So far, it's not looking very good for stocks, which, no matter one's politics or economic views, became extremely over-extended in December. This is the kind of market that develops when a small group of people try to enforce a narrative or press their will upon a larger reality. After a while, nothing can be trusted, nobody knows what's real and what's make believe.

The party's over. The hangover may last a bit longer than expected.

At the Close, Thursday, January 4, 2023:
Dow: 37,440.34, +10.15 (+0.03%)
NASDAQ: 14,510.30, -81.91 (-0.56%)
S&P 500: 4,688.68, -16.13 (-0.34%)
NYSE Composite: 16,715.71, -2.95 (-0.02%)


Magnificent 7 Stocks Sold Off First Days of 2024 for Tax Purposes; Expect Markets to Stabilize, Gain Ground

Thursday, January 4, 2024, 9:14 am ET

For equity investors, 2024 has gotten off to a very rocky beginning, but especially so for the NASDAQ and, to be more specific, the so-called "Magnificent 7" stocks that booked extraordinary gains from October 2022 through the end of 2023.

From the exuberance of last month to the seemingly frightened attitude of the market in the first few days of January, nothing has changed other than the calendar, which is exactly the point. Most of the selling the past two days has been all about profit-taking and extending the time period on which to pay taxes.

Recalling that the Magnificent 7 rally began well more than a year ago, there are more than a few big money players that have reeled in massive profits. Take, for instance Microsoft (MSFT). On October 31, 2022, shares closed at 221 and change. They ended 2023 at 375.98, a pretty healthy move over a period of 14 months. Obviously, some people might be thinking of booking those gains. The savvy accountants advising these profitable investors noted that paying taxes on those assets held for more than a year - purchases made in November and December 2022 - could be held off until filing for 2024, or, any time between January 1 and April 15 of 2025. Exactly. and that is why when Microsoft opened for trading on January 2, the price fell immediately at the open from 375.98 to 373.86 and eventually to as low as 371.22.

An even more exaggerated move at the January 2 opening bell was made with Apple (AAPL), thanks to a deliberately-timed downgrade by Barclay's. To a varying degree, the same held true for Amazon, Meta, Google, Nvidia. The seventh member of the group, Tesla (TSLA) took a little longer to develop, but sell off it did, dumping almost 10 points (4.01%) on Wednesday. The charts don't lie. Every one of the Magnificent 7 stocks took a serious dive, six of them right at the first opportunity, at the January 2 opening bell. This is obviously tax-incentivized selling. Thank you, Uncle Sam.

Those of the belief that the selloff of the past two sessions represents the beginning of a bearish trend better think again. There's a very good chance that a reflex rally is in the cards for Thursday, extending into Friday. While the NASDAQ is once again showing signs of stress in the futures (down around 35 points at 8:45 am ET), Dow and S&P futures are positive.

What's presented for market participants is a typical set-up that retail investors usually fail to grasp. Just when it looks like stocks are about to fall off a cliff is when retail sells and the serious buyers get busy snapping up bargains, quite possibly in the very same stocks they just sold. As mentioned yesterday: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Amplifying the argument for a snap-back rally, ADP Employment Report, released just moments ago, showed a gain of 164,000 jobs in December, ahead of the 125,000 expected and up from a revised +101,000 in November. Unemployment claims for the last week of December came in dovishly as well, with just 202,000 initial claims, at or near the lows of 2023. These two readings don't exactly scream recession, do they? If anything, they indicate a stable employment picture, which goes against the grain of the current argument that the Fed will cut interest rates in March, or May, or three to six times in 2024. We'd need a recession for that and it doesn't seem to be happening.

The American public, if they awaken in time from playoff football and paying off holiday bills, may wish to examine more closely just exactly what the highly-politicized Federal Reserve is doing, has already done, and may be about to do. Economic policies that induce massive money creation, currency debasement, inflation, and a runaway stock market are expressly NOT what one would call orderly. The Fed exists to enrich itself and its owners, not you, not now, and not ever.

While the market may look shaky already in 2024, there's a long time until the elections, so how does one prepare for just about anything? In practice, nobody can. Trust your gut.

At the Close, Wednesday, January 3, 2024:
Dow: 37,430.19, -284.85 (-0.76%)
NASDAQ: 14,592.21, -173.73 (-1.18%)
S&P 500: 4,704.81, -38.02 (-0.80%)
NYSE Composite: 16,718.65, -122.96 (-0.73%)


Stocks Tumble to Open New Year as Apple Downgrade Resonates Across Markets

Wednesday, January 3, 2024, 9:23 am ET

Much to the delight of an enormous horde of profiteers, Tuesday morning's downgrade of Apple (APPL) was impeccably timed to maximize the capital gains shielding against taxation, leaving retail clown traders holding the bag. Anybody taking profits from Apple stock on Tuesday will have until April 15, 2025 to claim their gains and/or offset them with losses.

Barclays analyst Tim Long tagged Apple with an underweight rating due to weak iPhone demand Tuesday morning, sending shared plummeting four percent in the first trading session of 2024.

Even though Apple closed at an all-time high of 198.11 on December 14, shares had been sliding into the finish of the holiday season, missing out on the subdued "Santa Claus Rally" that boosted the indices over the final two weeks of 2023. Still, anybody taking profits on Tuesday was likely richly rewarded. Apple stock had been one of the highlights of the "Magnificent 7" run through last year; it's close at 185.64 Tuesday was still nearly 50% higher than where it stood a year ago.

With Apple trembling, the NASDAQ 100 tumbled 1.7%, marking the third-worst first-day performance since the 2001 dot-com bust. While first-day gains or losses aren't much of a bellwether (the first five days and the full month of January are more reliable indicators) for how stocks will fare through the rest of the year, the NASDAQ's big drop to open 2024 may have had more to do with the obvious overbought condition of the tech sector. The S&P was not as badly damaged, and the Dow - despite Apple's overall drag - actually posted a 25-point gain on the day.

Entering day two of 2024, futures are again being hit, with the E-minis down across the board. Treasuries were sold off on Tuesday, sending the yield on the 10-year note up 11 basis points, from 3.86% to 3.97% at the open yesterday. Those figures are holding, with the 10-year yielding around 3.95% just prior to the opening bell. Any move above 4.00% could be devastating to bond players, who also were beneficiaries of holiday binge buying.

In the casino sector fondly referred to as the "crypto space," bitcoin got keel-hauled, dropping more then $4,000 in a matter of minutes on what is the 15th anniversary of the so-called "Genesis Block," the first block of bitcoin to be minded back in 2009. The mysterious drop comes just a day after bitcoin rallied from just above $42,000 to nearly $46,000, leaving a plateau in its place, a chart pattern that's becoming all-too-familiar to fundamental analysts and chartists.

Investors will be looking at numbers from ISM manufacturing and later in the day, Fed minutes from the December meeting will be scrutinized.

2024 is off to an exciting start, but, as far as stocks are concerned, the real action may be held off until next week, when the House of Representatives return from their extended vacation to take up various appropriations bills to stave off a partial government shutdown on January 19 while also weighing possible articles of impeachment. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

At the Close, Tuesday, January 2, 2024:
Dow: 37,715.04, +25.50 (+0.07%)
NASDAQ: 14,765.94, -245.41 (-1.63%)
S&P 500: 4,742.83, -27.00 (-0.57%)
NYSE Composite: 16,841.62, -11.27 (-0.07%)


WEEKEND WRAP: 2023, The Numbing of America; NASDAQ Had One of Best Years Ever; Gold Near All-Time High

Sunday, December 31, 2023, 3:55 pm ET

It's the end of another year, a time for reflection and projection.

The noise, the lies, the constant barrage of fake news, screeching rhetoric, and slanted narratives that fly in the face of empirical evidence at some point becomes unbelievable and is discarded by the general public. Polls, surveys, and opinion metrics become increasingly under question and eventually ignored when reality doesn't match the media simulations of everyday life.

The experience of the COVID blasphemy from 2020 through 2021 darkened many people's views of society's upper echelons, institutions, rules, and false constructs. Nobody likes being lied to, especially when the lie is promoted in such a grand manner as the COVID lockdowns, the ineffective vaccines, the harmful masking, the unvarnished promotion of fear as a control mechanism. Layered atop the emergency was the continuing climate change claptrap, while inside, the 2020 election, its validity forever to be questioned, and the January 6 falsehoods were erected as monuments to gullibility and general public malaise.

As the fourth anniversary of the beginnings of the COVID crisis - a crisis that was entirely manufactured by hidden actors in plain sight like Klaus Schwab, Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci, et. al. - approaches, there has been ample time for analysis of what really happened and how it's affected the multitudes.

Offshoots from the international masquerade were runaway inflation, media-fueled white hatred, and a government off its regular medications, offering entirely asinine solutions to problems of their own creation, a neat trick for a Washington, DC crowd (congress) that's had approval ratings in the teens for the better part of forty years.

Few people thought government could become even less effective and more out of touch with the people than they already were, but, they managed to outdo themselves by funding a war which was destined to be lost in Ukraine, hailing its begging leader, Zelensky, as some kind of everyman hero, stifling energy production, stealing funds from Russia, blowing up the Nordstream pipelines, opening the Southern border wide to every manner of illegality, and finally, failing to call out the obvious genocide by Israel in the Middle East.

Now, the government, the powerful, the masterminds of social dysfunction, have a big problem that's about to become even more massive. Nobody is listening anymore. Nobody wants to know how many states are going to keep Donald Trump off the election ballots. Nobody cares what Joe Biden's people say about the economy. Nobody cares that stocks are higher, wages are higher, when everything else costs more. Survival, not prosperity, mind you, in America has become a zero sum game. For every benefit supposedly handed out, there's an inflated bill attached. For every act of kindness, a slap to the other cheek. For every stock market gain, further debasement of the currency. There's no winning hand in a poker game with only deuces, threes, and fours to play. People are disgusted. They watch football, drink, and take medicine to relieve the pain and suffering of their everyday lives that have been turned into torture chambers.

When people are buying eggs at $5.00 a dozen and stocks are up 20, 25, 30 percent, they tend to feel compromised, that somebody or something is taking advantage of their good natures, and they're right. The "rule of law" that politicians proudly trot out whenever questions of propriety arise has long ago been shattered by unscrupulous prosecutors, a politicized judicial branch, police operating without the benefit of a moral compass, and meaningless, often harmful, legislation.

Avoidance of the law and the government has become the national pasttime. Not a single man, woman or child wants to deal with the IRS, the EPA, BLM, DOJ, FBI, DHS, or any of the plethora of three-letter agencies hat prowl the canyons of American cities and the meadows of the rural landscape, let alone state agencies that have joined in the serial raping and pillaging of the innocent, unwary public. Everywhere one cares to look, there's another rule, regulation, recommendation, law, fee, tax or fine for non-compliance attached to things that used to be free, unfettered, taken for granted. As more and more regulation is piled on, the taxes and fees only go one way: higher, and higher, and higher still. They never go down, never will, and it doesn't take a math whiz to understand that the entire construct is unsustainable.

Cracks are beginning to show and they're easy to see. There's no winning in Ukraine, nor in Israel. The border situation could have been easily remedied, but it wasn't. And there's the tell-tale rub. It's not just one party pushing the narrative, taking a wrecking ball to the constitution and the cumulative American psyche. It's not just Democrats. Republicans are equally to blame. It's a Uniparty, intent on retaining power at the expense of freedom and liberty for all. There will be plenty for them and none for you. That's the message and people are tired of hearing it.

How the United States of America has managed to not entirely implode upon itself is testament to the power of drugs and sports and distractions meant to keep the public in a state of perpetual suspended animation. Aldous Huxley would be proud of the effort, but, it's not working. People don't believe anything that emanates from political sources, the mainstream media or any other fantastic official narrative.

They're just not listening.

So, as 2023 comes to an end and 2024 begins, the question is not whether America will survive, because it will, but rather, how it will be shaped. Can the tide be turned or are the "good old days" just that, gone, and soon to be forgotten forever?

In the 2020s, American with the wherewithal managed to escape from cities and blue states to small town life and red states. The next step in the process is the inevitable exodus out of the country. As even "safe" states like Texas, Missouri, Florida, and elsewhere are beginning to suffer the stresses of undocumented illegals overwhelming the government's ability to contain them, where is there to turn? Montana? Wyoming? Idaho? It seems no place is far enough away from open borders and their malignant effects.

South America, Asia, and the Far East beckon with reasonable immigration laws, low crime rates, lower taxes, fewer annoyances, less government overreach. The best and the brightest are soon to be waving good-bye to the land they called home. Many have already left. More will follow, leaving the former "land of the free" to the weak, the lame, the ignorant, the impotent, the leeches, the liars, the users, the takers, the scoundrels, and the criminals.

The days of "getting it while the getting is good" are gone. Massive gains in stocks, bonds, and real estate are peaking or about to peak. And with every peak comes a trough, not just in economics, but in nature and all manner of existence. If 2023 was the yin, 2024 will be the yang. Cause, effect; event, reaction; taxes, death. It's inevitable.

Happy New Year.


Stocks

Stocks ended the year the same way they started, to the upside. Where January was good, November and December were far better, by orders of magnitude. Even though the last day of trading ended with a dull thud, the three major indices managed to hold onto gains made earlier in the week, each positive for a ninth straight week.

From October 27 to Friday's bell on the December 29, the Dow Industrials have risen 5,271.95 points, from 32,417.59 to 37,689.54, a gain of 16.26%, which is better than its performance for the entire year. Strangely enough, one could have stayed out of the Dow until the end of October, bought in and made more than those who bought-and-held the entire year. Now comes the decision for January: sell and hold capital gains untaxed until April 15, 2025, or continue to ride the wave.

Full, one-year returns are in the chart below.

Index 12/30/22 12/29/23 % +/-
Dow: 33,147.25 37,689.54 +13.70%
NASDAQ: 10,466.48 15,011.35 +43.42%
S&P 500: 3,839.50 4,769.83 +24.23%
NYSE Composite: 15,184.31 16,852.89 +10.99%
Dow Transports: 13,391.91 15,898.85 +18.72%

2023's gains are impressive. After last year's 33% plunge, NASDAQ ended 2023 up 43%, its best year since 2020. The gain was also just short of the performance of 2009. Only those two years had larger gains than 2023, dating back to 2003, when stocks were emerging from the dot-com crash.

The Nasdaq is now just 6.5% short of its record high from November 2021.

There are headwinds for stocks entering 2024, not the least of which will be echoing out of Washington, DC, where lawmakers will wrangle over issues at the border, funding for Ukraine and Israel, a possibility of an impeachment movement forming, and passing appropriations bills by January 19.

The House of Representatives recessed on December 15 and will remain out of session until January 9, leaving just ten days to pass five more appropriations bills for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Labor, and Transportation. They must also conclude conference negotiations with the Senate on seven others, four of which the Senate had not taken up prior to the holidays.

In order to avert a partial government shutdown on January 19, the House will need to pass all of the individual spending bills onto the Senate, though House members have the options of passing a short-term continuing resolution or an omnibus spending bill, lumping all appropriations into one huge monstrosity. The rush to avoid shutting dwn the government will make for plenty of interesting side talk, fear-mongering, finger-pointing, and general politicking, but likely, nothing of substance that would upset the status quo order of the ruling elite.

The wrangling and rhetoric will supply Wall Street with plenty of grist to grind, pushing stocks up or down, depending on the mood of the day. Dove-tailing into Washington's dash for cash are fourth quarter and full year earnings reports, the earliest of note are banks and some other big names, with Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), JP Morgan (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC) all reporting Friday morning, January 12, along with BlackRock (BK), Delta Airlines (DAL), and United Health (UNH).

Should make for considerable volatility the first few weeks of the new Year.


Treasury Yield Curve Rates

Date 1 Mo 2 Mo 3 Mo 4 Mo 6 Mo 1 Yr
11/24/2023 5.55 5.56 5.54 5.48 5.45 5.27
12/01/2023 5.55 5.53 5.43 5.45 5.33 5.05
12/08/2023 5.54 5.53 5.44 5.49 5.39 5.13
12/15/2023 5.54 5.54 5.44 5.47 5.33 4.95
12/22/2023 5.54 5.52 5.44 5.45 5.31 4.82
12/29/2023 5.60 5.59 5.40 5.41 5.26 4.79

Date 2 Yr 3 Yr 5 Yr 7 Yr 10 Yr 20 Yr 30 Yr
11/24/2023 4.92 4.67 4.49 4.51 4.47 4.79 4.60
12/01/2023 4.56 4.31 4.14 4.22 4.22 4.58 4.40
12/08/2023 4.71 4.45 4.24 4.28 4.23 4.49 4.31
12/15/2023 4.44 4.13 3.91 3.94 3.91 4.19 4.00
12/22/2023 4.31 4.04 3.87 3.92 3.90 4.21 4.05
12/29/2023 4.23 4.01 3.84 3.88 3.88 4.20 4.03

Treasuries ended the year with some of the lowest rates on long-dated maturities since July, and also approaching rates at the start of 2023.

Here's a couple of tables showing treasury yields at the start and end of the year.

Date 1 Mo 2 Mo 3 Mo 4 Mo 6 Mo 1 Yr
01/03/2023 4.17 4.42 4.53 4.70 4.77 4.72
12/29/2023 5.60 5.59 5.40 5.41 5.26 4.79

Date 2 Yr 3 Yr 5 Yr 7 Yr 10 Yr 20 Yr 30 Yr
01/03/2023 4.40 4.18 3.94 3.89 3.79 4.06 3.88
12/29/2023 4.23 4.01 3.84 3.88 3.88 4.20 4.03

What's worth noting here is that short-term yields are far higher than at the start of the year, due to the Fed's hiking in the first half of the year. Equally interesting are the relative levels of the longer-dated notes and bonds, with 2s, 3s, 5s, and 7s actually lower now than they were prior to four Fed hikes from January through July, which moved the federal funds target rate a full percentage point, from 4.25-4.50% to 5.25-5.50%.

Additionally, the degree of inversion was more moderate compared to today. 2s-10s were elevated at -61 basis points compared to full spectrum from 30-days out to 30-years at a very modest 29 basis points. The Fed is a very far distance from normalization of the curve. An excess of distress is hiding within the inverted curve.

5s-10s remained dis-inverted (normalized) for a second straight week. 2s-10s at -65, remaining the most inverted since September (-66). Full specturm came in its most inverted, at -157 basis points. If the Fed is indeed serious about cutting rates in March, or even May, the curve is so distorted already that such action may not make much of a difference or it could cause all manner of convulsions. Should the Fed cut rates at the federal funds level, banks, credit issuers, and everyody else will have to adjust their thinking and positioning given whether the Fed is just teasing, is more serious long-term, or is making a mistake by cutting rates when employment and the economy remains robust, triggering another bout of inflation.

It may be best to wait until they actually do something rather than try to front-run the potential for a rate cut. Shorting the long end (looking for rates to rise) may be the best overall strategy no matter what the Fed does or doesn't do, because clown world economics, such as has been demonstrated over the last (2, 3, 5, 10, 20 years, take your pick) isn't likely to last another 30 years, or even 10, or maybe not even five.

Between the Fed, deep-pocketed treasury buyers, and primary dealers, the treasury market has become more like a wide open shooting gallery than an easy-going apple bob, rife with obstacles and pitfalls, which makes projecting short and medium term movements practically impossible.

If anything can be expected, it would be for the clown show to continue throughout 2024 with some potential wild scenes along the way to the elections.

Bonds. Whoopie!

Spreads:

2s-10s
9/15/2023: -69
9/22/2023: -66
9/29/2023: -44
10/06/2023: -30
10/13/2023: -41
10/20/2023: -14
10/27/2023: -15
11/03/2023: -26
11/10/2023: -43
11/17/2023: -44
11/24/2023: -45
12/01/2023: -34
12/08/2023: -48
12/15/2023: -53
12/22/2023: -59
12/29/2023: -65

Full Spectrum (30-days - 30-years)
9/15/2023: -109
9/22/2023: -99
9/29/2023: -82
10/06/2023: -64
10/13/2023: -82
10/20/2023: -47
10/27/2023: -54
11/03/2023: -76
11/10/2023: -80
11/17/2023: -93
11/24/2023: -95
12/01/2023: -105
12/08/2023: -123
12/15/2023: -154
12/22/2023: -149
12/29/2023: -157


Oil/Gas

$71.33

WTI crude was back in its usual pattern, with WTI closing at $71.33, down from $73.49 the prior Friday's close. That $2.16 loss ended WTI's two week streak of gains. Warm weather, a holiday season without significant weather or airline disruptions, and the relatively modest disruption in the Middle East kept prices at bay. While conditions around Yemen and the Red Sea are to be taken seriously, it's worth keeping in mind that oil flows from and is shipped from many places around the globe. The Middle Eastern flows are important, but Russia is supplying large parts of Asia, including China, despite US and EU sanctions. There's plenty being pumped and demand hasn't really shown any strength for at least a year.

According to gasbuddy.com, the national average for a gallon of unleaded regular gas at the pump hardly moved at all during the mid-holiday week, dipping to $3.09 on New Year's Eve from $3.10 Christmas Eve.

Between the Northeast and the West coast is an enormous swath of states with prices below $3.00, 28 in all, the notable exception being Illinois and North Carolina, both at at $3.01. The cheapest gas is found in Oklahoma ($2.59), down a penny in the past week. Prices in Florida remain elevated, at $3.07, the highest in the Southeast. Arkansas is at $2.63, Mississippi, $2.64, Texas, $2.65.

Sub-$3 gas pushes through the Midwest all the way up to Wisconsin ($2.69), North Dakota ($2.81), and Minnesota ($2.86).

Just two states are over $4.00 a gallon, California ($4.68) and Washington ($4.12). Nevada is next at $3.89, followed by Oregon ($3.79), Arizona ($3.41), and Idaho ($3.15).

In the Northeast, Pennsylvania ($3.39) is still on top, followed by New York ($3.32). The lowest prices in the region are Ohio ($2.79) and West Virginia ($2.91). Alaska is around $3.15. Hawaii is steady at $4.12.


Bitcoin

This week: $42,514.40
Last week: $43,688.10
2 weeks ago: $42,562.60
6 months ago: $30,587.20
One year ago: $16,675.80

Bitcoin continued rangebound between $42,000 and $44,000, where it's been hanging out for the past month. Prior to the December boost, bitcoin hadn't been able to break above $38,000. From December 1st through the 5th, bitcoin ascended from $37.715 to $44,084, an extraordinary $6,369 move in four manic days. Prior to that, from mid-August to mid-October, bitcoin had not been able to get past $28,000, but then, from October 15 to October 25, it moved from $27,186 to $34,480 on October 25.

These moves of roughly $7,000 over short periods speak to not just volatility in the market but malleability of the market. In a more granular sense, the run-ups appear more as attempts at $10,000 bursts, from $25,000 to $35,000, and then to near $45,000. Those of the mind that the "coin" is overvalued, must consider the vacuous nature of shorting a chimera. Now you see bitcoin, now you don't. Throughout 2023, bitcoin and the larger crypto universe remained a fool's paradise. Those "hodlers" from early in the year made out like bandits, with close to a triple in the latest turn around the sun.

As has been the case for many of the last 15 years, bitcoin was a top gainer, up 155% as the last day of December grinds down.


Precious Metals

Gold:Silver Ratio: 86.25; last week: 84.36

Per COMEX continuous contracts:

Gold price 11/24: $2,023.60
Gold price 12/01: $2,091.70
Gold price 12/08: $2,020.80
Gold price 12/15: $2,033.80
Gold price 12/22: $2,064.50
Gold price 12/29: $2,071.80

Silver price 12/01: $25.90
Silver price 12/08: $23.29
Silver price 12/15: $24.17
Silver price 12/22: $24.47
Silver price 11/24: $24.02

2023 was a good year to be active in gold and silver markets. Price suppression schemes aside, both metals had performance ups and downs, but both were generally well-received, with prices generally higher worldwide and especially in Western countries. Central banks kept buying gold at elevated levels throughout the year. When all is tallied up, 2023 should come in higher than the record year of 2022 for central bank buying. That is an extremely significant, ongoing development that cannot be underestimated.

The world, and with it, currency flows, are changing. Middle and Far East countries are abandoning the dollar, preferring gold. Asian and African countries are awakening from what looks like a 100-year slumber. Many of these nations have growing, youthful populations, vast natural resources, and a sense of breaking free from decades of Western imperialism. The BRICS movement is accelerating the process and by this time on January 1, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates will become full BRICS members, expanding the roster to 10. Argentina, for now, is expected to decline the invitation, though eventually, they may also see the wisdom of joining the burgeoning alliance.

In US$ terms, gold made new highs in November and again in December and was up 12% for the year. Silver was something of a disappointment, though not to those continuing to stack and hoard, down just less than one percent on the year. Silver remains the best means for individuals to hedge against inflation and the depreciating US dollar. While prices for common goods and services have gone up in the past two years, silver has remained a bargain. It's relative stability - regardless of the COMEX manipulation - gives it status among rivals, of which only gold and platinum are. The kicker is that over the past two years, US dollars buy less of just about everything, except silver, making possibly the bargain of the century. Buying the same amount of silver today as you did two years ago with a devaluing currency is like manna from heaven. We'll take it. When true price discovery finally returns, silver's gains will be magnificent. For now, we'll wait.

Looking forward to 2024, expect more of the same. More central bank buying of gold and more price suppression of an extraordinary degree in silver. Some day, the world will come to its senses and return the gold:silver ratio to something resembling reality, at 15:1 or 20:1. It is then that silver devotees, of which there is a multitude, will be richly rewarded.

Here are the most recent prices for common one ounce gold and silver items sold on eBay (numismatics excluded, free shipping included):

Item/Price Low High Average Median
1 oz silver coin: 31.00 40.99 35.88 35.44
1 oz silver bar: 29.99 44.00 36.25 35.48
1 oz gold coin: 2,134.91 2,298.67 2,185.12 2,164.41
1 oz gold bar: 2,128.43 2,258.38 2,164.64 2,160.87

The Single Ounce Silver Market Price Benchmark (SOSMPB) dropped from the prior week, to $35.76, a decline of 75 cents from the December 24 price of $36.51 per troy ounce.


WEEKEND WRAP

Finally, the southern border illegal immigration crisis in America can be solved with just three words: Close. The. Border.

That's a wrap for 2023.

Here's hoping that 2024 brings you happiness, peace, and prosperity.

At the Close, Friday, December 29, 2023:
Dow: 37,689.54, -20.56 (-0.05%)
NASDAQ: 15,011.35, -83.78 (-0.56%)
S&P 500: 4,769.83, -13.52 (-0.28%)
NYSE Composite: 16,852.89, -37.69 (-0.22%)

For the Week:
Dow: +303.57 (+0.81%)
NASDAQ: +18.38 (+0.12%)
S&P 500: +15.20 (+0.32)
NYSE Composite: +82.44 (+0.49%)
Dow Transports: -165.05 (-1.03%)


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