11 September, 2007

Market Musings: Oil Records, Interest Rate Uncertainty put Market on Edge

As North American Markets rallied today oil prices soared towards record highs on fears that OPEC would be unable to meet demand. Oil approached records of around $78/barrel as investors bought up these futures into the winter season, expecting diminished oil supply numbers from the US.

Before you run off to buy Exxon Mobil (XOM) or Chevron (CVX), it's important to note that these mega-oils already saw around 2% gains today and stand close to 52-week highs. OPEC, the world oil production policy maker announced that it would increase production by 500,000 barrels per day to help ease prices. The general fear of market uncertainty due to the US Credit situation is putting the world economy on notice and forcing policy making organizations to take steps to control pricing of various goods. The news of the production ramp sent oil futures back to the $77/barrel range.

The recent US jobs number came in drastically softer than expected as payrolls were actually cut. Analysts expected a drop in jobs but not a complete loss. This data however, carried forward the notion that the Fed must act on Interest Rates at its next meeting later in September.

I would be cautious up to this meeting because the market's resilient rally here is based on the fact that the Fed will in fact cut rates by .25 or .50%. This is a key decision for the Fed as it balances a seemingly US strong economy and a disaster situation with credit that threatens to spill over into all consumer segments. Investors need to be cautious through the next week and beyond as the markets seek to establish a direction while waiting for the Federal Reserve to make its policy announcement. With the market having priced in a 25 basis point rate cut (.25%) and now working to price in a cut of 50 basis points (.50%) investors need to understand the upcoming risks. If action by the Fed is limited it would spark a sell off that could see the Dow back into the high 12000s.

If the Fed provides further relief for the markets, come the September meeting, we could be off to the races for the annual Santa Rally starting as soon as October. Technology companies making those must-have items such as Apple's (AAPL) iPod & iPhone, Nintendo's (NTDOY) Wii and Sony's (SNE) PS3 stand the most to gain, as would Internet advertising giant Google (GOOG), and auction house pioneer Ebay (EBAY). High growth will be the name of the game for the end of the year provided the expected relief comes by way of Bernanke and the Federal Reserve.

Disclosure: Author is long APPL, GOOG and does not own any of the other companies mentioned.

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