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All about war

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More economic data released this morning seemed to be ignored, with greater attention given to President Bush's speech in the Rose Garden.

While there was speculation earlier this morning that President Bush might comment on Iraq, is speech was very brief, lasting only a couple of minutes, and topic was about the roadmap toward peace between Israel and Palestine. The news was that upon confirmation of the new Palestinian prime minister, the road toward peace laid out by the U.S., European Union, Russia and the U.N. would immediately move forward.

The major indexes did falter from their early morning highs after the University of Michigan March sentiment (preliminary) was released, which came in below consensus estimates of 78.0, with a 75.0 reading. March's preliminary reading fell from February's 79.9. The drop in sentiment shows that the overall sentiment has now fallen below last fall's low point, but still above the trough lows reached during the 1990-91 recession.

Ahead of President Bush's brief speech on Israel/Palestine, stocks continued lower, with the Dow Industrials slipping to a low 7,799 (-24 points), but quickly began recovering when it became apparent that President Bush's speech was not going to address the subject of Iraq.

Since the speech by President Bush began, the major indexes have reached their best levels of the session, with the Dow Industrials (INDU) 7,894 +0.92% adding 72 points, the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX.X) 837 +0.64% gaining 5.5 points, S&P 100 Index (OEX.X) 426 +0.7% adding 3.2 points and NASDAQ-100 Index (NDX.X) 1,035 +0.53% rising by 5 points. On a broader scale, the NYSE Composite (NYA.X) 4, 667 +0.9% and NASDAQ Composite (COMPX) 1,347 +0.52% show gains.

Sector action has turned broadly positive with sector gainers having the Airline Index (XAL.X) 28.88 +3.99%, Defense Index (DFX.X) 136 +3.28% and Gold/Silver Index (XAU.X) 65.78 +2.7% leading today's sector winner list, while fractional losses are found in the Broker/Dealer Index (XBD.X) 364 -0.23%, Oil Service (OSX.X) 82.38 -0.25% and Natural Gas (XNG.X) 160.86 -0.06%.

Treasuries have been either side of the unchanged level the entire morning, but as stocks press to their best levels of the session, find marginal selling across the major maturities. The 10-year YIELD ($TNX.X) is inching up at 3.738%.

Most actively traded has Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) $24.85 +0.74%, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) $17.38 +0.19% and Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) $13.74 +2.38% trading just over 300 million shares each.

European markets showed another strong round of buying today after their surge on Thursday and this may have U.S. markets building gains into their weekend close. France's CAC-40 jumped another 6.6%, Germany's DAX gained 5.2% and the U.K.'s FTSE-100 rose 3.6%.

This morning's early action, especially ahead and just after President Bush's speech in the Rose Garden is sign to me that there is a lot of "war fear" having been, or at least being discounted in the markets. The recent "relief" of delaying of these fears looks to have bearish traders rather jittery as the major indexes continue to set session highs. This action is providing some shorter-term bulls some opportunities as the short-covering action seems to extend itself to a higher level of trade.

Jeff Bailey

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