Business/E-Business
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10/28/2008
09:06 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
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bMighty vs. Bernanke: More Mixed Signals

The rANT is becoming seriously confused -- these days it seems like the only certainty is uncertainty. On a day when U.S. consumer confidence dives lower than ever before, the stock market celebrates with its second-largest point gain in history.

The rANT is becoming seriously confused -- these days it seems like the only certainty is uncertainty. On a day when U.S. consumer confidence dives lower than ever before, the stock market celebrates with its second-largest point gain in history.First the good news. Heck, at least there is some! The Dow jumped nearly 900 points today, more than 10%! Some analysts credited bargain hunters, while others said investors were anticipating a big interest rate cut later this week. But no one really knows, especially since bulk of the gain came at the very end of the trading session.

Also in the plus column, the credit crunch appeared to ease a bit, as the overnight Libor rate fell for the second-straight day to 1.24% from 1.26% on Monday. Meanwhile, the 3-month LIBOR fell 4 basis points to 3.47 percent yesterday, its 12th straight drop.

Just as important,the TED Spread dropped as low as 2.61 percentage points before closing at 2.70 -- down from 2.76 points on Monday. The TED Spread had been record highs topping 4 points or more in recent weeks. And overseas, lending rates dipped as banks pumped more money into the economies. It's still higher than historic levels, but any improvement is welcome here.

But that's only half the story. There was plenty of bad news, too. In October, American consumer confidence fell to the lowest level since the Conference Board first created the report in 1967! According to the New York Times:

The surveys confidence index fell to 38 in October, down from 61.4 in September, on a scale where a reading of 100 represents the consumer outlook on the economy in 1985.

The rANT says: Yikes!

If that's not enough, the Times also warned that the slowing economy and the credit crunch are finally affecting consumer credit cards:

Lenders are shunning consumers already in debt and cutting credit limits for existing cardholders, especially those who live in areas ravaged by the housing crisis or work in troubled industries. In some cases, certain lenders are even pulling in credit lines after monitoring cardholders who shop at the same stores as other risky borrowers or who have mortgages from certain banks.

The rANT says: Double Yikes!!

On the plus side again, though, the Times estimates that this will translate to "13 fewer pieces of credit card junk mail a year."

So what are we to make of all this? The rANT doesn't really have a clue, and doesn't think anyone else does, either. It's unlikely that the big jump in the market means that worst is over, but there's no doubt that a day full of mixed messages is still better than a day of unalloyed bad news.

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