December 27, 2012 at 09:35 AM EST
Shipping ports labor dispute threatens economy.
Thursday, December 27, 9:35 a.m. While all eyes and concerns are on the fiscal cliff talks, a more normal, and easier to understand threat to the economy is moving closer to becoming possible. Negotiations broke down last week between dockworkers’ unions, and and management at 15 major shipping ports from Massachusetts, New York and New [...]

Thursday, December 27, 9:35 a.m.

While all eyes and concerns are on the fiscal cliff talks, a more normal, and easier to understand threat to the economy is moving closer to becoming possible.

Negotiations broke down last week between dockworkers’ unions, and and management at 15 major shipping ports from Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, to Texas, with the deadline for a new contract by December 30 only days away. The dockworker unions rejected the latest contract proposals which employers had described as their best and final offer.

Both sides have agreed to try the mediation route, but the outcome is not encouraging given the disparity between the offers from both sides.

And it’s not just major east coast ports. Four ports in the Northwest that account for 25% of all U.S. grain shipments also rejected contract offers from managements. Their union, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, claims employers are looking for more than 750 changes in contracts that would involve major changes in more than 80 years of shipping port practices.

The unions have not yet asked memberships for approval to call strikes, but managements are reported to be preparing for a possible lock-out and use of replacement workers.

We don’t need another source of economic uncertainty at this point.

To read my newspaper column from last weekend click here:  Politicians Will Not Sandbag a Very Promising Recovery!

Subscribers to Street Smart Report: There is a hotline and an in-depth markets update including the short-term and intermediate-term signals on the U.S. market, and gold and bonds in your secure area of the Street Smart Report website. from late yesterday.

Yesterday in the U.S. Market.

A fairly quiet day considering the supposed concern over the fiscal cliff talks. The Dow was up as much as 35 points and down as much as 63 points, and recovered to close down only 24 points, or 0.2%. Trading volume was very light at fewer than 0.5 billion shares traded on the NYSE.

The Dow closed down 24 points, or 0.2%. The S&P 500 closed down 0.5%. The NYSE Composite closed down 0.3%. The Nasdaq closed down 0.7%. The Nasdaq 100 closed down 0.8%. The Russell 2000 closed down 0.6%. The DJ Transportation Avg. closed down 0.6%. The DJ Utilities Avg closed down 0.9%.

Gold closed up $1 an ounce at $1,659.

Oil closed up $2.35 a barrel at $90.98.

The U.S. dollar etf UUP closed unchanged.

The U.S. Treasury bond etf TLT closed up 0.1%.

Yesterday in European Markets.

European markets were mixed with only small moves yesterday. The Europe Dow closed up 0.2%. Among individual countries, the London FTSE closed up 0.2%. The German DAX closed down 0.5%. France’s CAC closed down 0.2%. Greece surged up 1.8%. Ireland closed down 0.4%. Italy closed down 0.4%. Spain closed up 0.3%. Russia closed down 0.1%.

Asian Markets closed up Tuesday night and again last night.

The Asia Dow closed up 0.2% Tuesday night, and up 0.3% last night.

Among individual markets last night:

Australia closed up 0.3%. China closed down 0.6%. Hong Kong closed up 0.4%. India closed down 0.5%. Indonesia closed up 0.2%. Japan closed up 0.9%. Malaysia closed up 0.3%. New Zealand closed up 0.2%. South Korea closed up 0.3%. Singapore closed up 0.1%. Taiwan closed up 0.2%. Thailand closed up 1.1%.

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Markets This Morning:

European markets are mostly up again this morning. The London FTSE is up 0.6%. The German DAX is up 0.4%. France’s CAC is up 0.7%. Spain is down 0.1%. Greece is up 1.9%. Italy is up 0.9%. Russia up 0.7%.

Oil is up $.05 a barrel at $91.03.

Gold is down $3 an ounce at $1,656.

This Morning in the U.S. Market:

In this holiday-shortened week, there are not a lot of potential market-moving economic reports scheduled, but they do include New Home Sales, Consumer Confidence, the Chicago PMI, etc.  To see the full list click here, and look at the left side of the page it takes you to.

There were no reports Monday or Tuesday.

Yesterday’s report was the Case-Shiller Home Prices Index, which showed that home prices slipped fractionally , 0.1%, in October from September, but were up 4.3% year-on-year.

This morning’s report so far was that new weekly unemployment claims fell by 12,000 last week to 350,000. And the more important four-week m.a., which smooths out the weekly volatility, fell by 11,250 to 356,750, its lowest level in almost 5 years.

Still to come are New Home Sales, and Consumer Confidence, both of which will be released at 10 a.m.

Our Pre-Open Indicators:

Our pre-open indicators are pointing to the Dow being up 20 points or so in the early going this morning, meaningless as to direction later.

To read my weekend newspaper column click here: Politicians Will Not Sandbag a Very Promising Recovery!

Subscribers to Street Smart Report: There is a hotline and an in-depth markets update including the short-term and intermediate-term signals on the U.S. market, and gold and bonds in your secure area of the Street Smart Report website. from late yesterday.

I’ll be back with the next regular blog post on Saturday morning, as usual later than the week-day posts, probably around 11 a.m. eastern time.

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