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Stock Trading: Only 2 Flavors Left in the World

Stocks are up today, and up in the last few days, partly because the market is oversold, but also because the euro has stabilized, and the dollar has resumed its weakness. This is largely because the trading community is expecting the Greek government to survive the no-confidence vote tonight and to approve the new austerity bill on June 28.

So today it is "risk on."

What happens if the Greek government falls? Then it is "risk off" again. Euro spreads will widen, and I would not be surprised if Europe was down 3 percent overnight (but remember U.S. markets are up 1.7 percent this week alone).

This, sadly, is what the global investing community has devolved into: "risk on" and "risk off." There seems to be only two flavors.

I'm exaggerating a bit: distressed debt is still getting hurt, even today, but the general thrust is true. Only two flavors.

You think we have problems? Pity the poor Greek parliamentarian, sitting between the Scylla of their constituents (the Greek people) and the Charybdis of the global banks.

The betting, as you can see, is that the EU and the banks are going to force-feed the Greeks a bailout none of them want.

People who live in glass countries...finally, I was struck by a Reuters story this morning that mentioned that Greece's sovereign debt amounted to 340 billion euros, or more than 30,000 euros per head of its 11.3 million population. That's $42,900 for every man, woman and child in the country.

I thought, my heavens, that's a lot of money, until I checked on the U.S. outstanding public debt per person: $46,201 ($14.3 trillion, with a population of 310 million).

  • Fitch Sees Risk of Greece, US Debt Defaults

It's not entirely a fair comparison (per-capita income in the U.S. is far higher), but you get the idea.

Elsewhere, the slowdown in retail trading continues. I've been noting that trading activity has been down across the board since April — not just retail, but institutional and high-frequency trading is down.

That trend appears to be continuing in June, at least for retail traders. Retail trading activity as measured by Daily Avenue Revenue Trades (DARTs) of the major eBrokers are down 15 percent through June 17th compared to the same period in May, according to Rich Repetto at Sandler O'Neill.

He is modeling a 5 to 7.5 percent decline in DARTs for the eBrokers for the full month, which means that EPS for the group may fall short of expectations.

Much of this may already be priced in, Repetto notes: online brokers have had a miserable month, down 11.6 percent to date, while the S&P 500 is down only 5 percent.

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