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The Durham Duress

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May peace be with you!

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"A good friend of mine used to say, "This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains." Think about that for a while."

Ebby Calvin 'Nuke' LaLoosh, Bull Durham



The afternoon stare is a sleepy affair as Hoofy holds on to a wing and a prayer. After two sessions of green acres, the Thursday blur is decidedly undecided--breadth is flattish, the banks are DEFCON (BKX 100), the semis act dry, the macro dance is muted and crude is trading seven ways 'till Sunday. And just when you thought it was safe to exhale, the overnight catalyst the busiest night of the season. Stand up, do some push-ups, splash water on your face--SOMETHING--but make sure you make lucid decisions into the bell. The risk profile you go home with will be your starting stance tomorrow morning.

The conditional elements of the long side "try" to remain in place (stochastics, NDX 200-day below, corporates) but the action has felt obligatory at best. After the thumping that Hoofy took to start the year, I woulda thought the bounce would have some meat to it. Yet, despite the best efforts from the bulls, we've yet to mount the first (in a series) of resistance levels. Further, with the notable exception of yesterday, market internals infer that the liftage has been thin and thinner.

With Microsoft (MSFT) taking center stage tonight, traders need to ask themselves some tough questions into the close. It still feels like there is alotta hope floating around and supply seems to materialize on each rally attempt. The rest of the day will see alotta posturing as hedgies manicure their risk profile. And while Mr. Softee will surely shape tomorrow's tape, it'll only last so long before focus shifts to the Iraqi elections and the attendant risk.

My sense from talking to my brethren around the Street is that angst levels are high and tension is thick. I've been there, cookie, and can tell you with absolute certainty that pressing and guessing will only exacerbate the pain. Take it from someone who has buried more options than I care to remember--discipline trumps conviction and the ability not to trade sometimes trumps trading ability. The excess capacity in the financial industry will only alleviate as a function of attrition. Know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em and when to duck under the table to cover ye arse.

Fare ye well into the bell.

R.P.
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