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The rally that began 4 weeks ago continues to gather momentum.   The market closed at the highs of the day with a 0.4% gain.  Volume was moderate and breadth was positive at 1.5:1.  The impressive stats just continue to pile on top of one another.  The S&P is now back at the January high and is up 9 of the last 10 sessions.  Bank stocks have risen 21 of the last 24 sessions and are now up 10 sessions in a row.   The VIX fell for the first time in 3 days, but also extended its impressive momentum to the downside with its 18th down day in the last 22.  It’s hard to say that this hasn’t been the absolutely most impressive part of the entire rally since last March.  It has been on little to no news, very low volume, but is relentless in its push higher as sentiment surges to a very bullish positions.  Whether this is a rational move or not is irrelevant.  The bulls clearly have the upper hand.

From Daily Futures:

U.S. Economy
The U.S. Labor Department said that jobless claims were down 6,000 last week to 462,000, a little more than expected.

The U.S. Census Bureau said that exports were down $.5 billion to $142.7 billion in January while imports were down $3.1 billion to $180.0 billion. The result was net imports of $37.3 billion, down from $39.9 billion in December.

The U.S. Treasury sold $13 billion of 30-year T-bonds at a median yield of 4.645% with a bid-to-cover ratio of 2.89, the highest since September. The June U.S. T-bonds finished up 9/32nds at 116.19/32nds.

Grains and Cotton
The USDA said that, as of last week, 2009-2010 exports of:
Corn fell from up 7% to up 6% from a year ago.
Soybeans fell from up 34% to up 33% from a year ago.
Wheat improved from down 22% to down 21% from a year ago.
Cotton improved from down 25% to down 23% from a year ago.
May cotton fell 1.44 cents to 78.77.

May soybeans closed down 27.5 cents at $9.305, pressured by expectations that world supplies will increase this year.

The USDA said that net sales of beef totaled 14,100 tons last week, up from 5,200 tons the previous week. June cattle were up .22 at 91.95.

Canada’s Food Inspection Agency said that a 6-year old beef cow in Alberta was confirmed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy last month. It was the 17th incident since 2003.

The U.S. Department of Energy said that underground supplies of natural gas were down 111 billion cubic feet last week to 1.626 trillion cubic feet, as expected. Supplies are now down 4% from a year ago. May natural gas dropped 11.8 cents to $4.506, the lowest in over a year.

May copper ended up .0090 at $3.3770 after reports that Chile experienced two more earthquakes this morning.

Consumer prices in China were up 2.7% in February from a year ago, the most in 16 months. Some are saying that an increase in interest rates may be ahead.

Australia’s Statistics Bureau said that the unemployment rate increased from 5.2% to 5.3% in February with a net gain of 400 jobs, less than expected. The June Australian dollar ended down .01 at 90.60.

Japan’s Cabinet Office said that real GDP was up .9% in the fourth quarter and down 1.4% from a year ago, less than last month’s estimate.

Statistics Canada said that exports were up .5% in January at C$33.0 billion while imports were down 1.7% to C$32.2 billion. The result was net exports of C$799 million. Also, industries operated at 70.9% of capacity in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from 68.7% in the third quarter.

An analyst at the Royal Bank of Canada said that he expects real GDP to be up 3.1% in 2010.

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