Mounting concerns over unemployment, country-debt quality, and housing helped send the S&P 500 down 2.4% from Monday’s close, but the index remains .7% above last Friday’s close and more than 31% ahead of its low reached March 9th. A bit of cooling is inevitable as investors are perhaps a bit too far in front of the economic data; data which largely expresses ‘less bad’ news than truly good news on the recovery.

If you had been given a glance into the future by reading a few of this week’s headlines, would you not guess that stocks would be fall rather than chase new highs? North Korea claims that it detonated a nuclear device, Fed governors threaten further rate hikes, housing continues its retreat, a plane crashes into a Manhattan high-rise, and option scandals at major corporations abound. And aren’t we in the midst of the historically weakest time of the year for stocks – September and October? We have to marvel at the new highs being made.

There is an axiom on Wall Street that says ‘as goes January, so goes the year.’  Yesterday certainly got January off to a good start.  The first trading day of the New Year saw the Dow rise by 3.2%, the S&P 500 by 3.3% and the NASDAQ by 3.7%.  Volume was heavier than the preceding week, but was still well below normal.  However, the buying volume was six times the selling volume; further proof that selling is on the decline. 

Wednesday’s market opened with much promise.  Our president said there were indications that our efforts against the Taliban and Al Qaeda were showing success.  IBM and several other notable companies reported earnings that were better than expectations.  The DOW and NASDAQ opened up 100 and 30 points, respectively, above their Tuesday close.  Investors seemed to ignore the news that terrorists had crossed yet another line by assassinating Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi outside his hotel room.  Later in the morning, though, the weight of two events finally began to drive the resilient market down.  The first was a lack of financial inspiration from Mr. Greenspan followed by a steady flow of new anthrax letters cropping up in places of high visibility.