Thursday, May 20, 2010

Global Markets Under Severe Pressure; Stocks Pounded

The most common term being tossed around Wall Street and other financial capitols the past few days has been "de-risking," (which isn't even a real word), or use of the term, "taking off risk," which implies, correctly, that investing in stocks is generally risky business. That's why the game used to be reserved for wealthy, astute investors with money to spare, though today, the market is comprised of everybody from rich company CEOs to the average cabbie or retail worker, through mutual funds, 401k plans, options, hedges and other schemes that serve to make an already risky proposition even more so.

It doesn't take a Gordon Gecko or even a Warren Buffet to understand that when major investments firms are "taking off risk," i.e., selling stock and/or buying protection via puts or covered calls, that the average Joe or Jane should be doing precisely the same. If the big boys are scared, there's usually a very good reason (of which nobody will speak) to get out of the way, and today was a classic example of just how risky investing in stocks can be.

Days like today, and, incidentally, the past two weeks or trading, are precisely what your broker, financial planner or CNBC doesn't want you to know about. Profits can be gone in a flash - a day, a week - like tossing hard-earned money down a sink-hole. The analysts call these kinds of sell-offs "liquidity plays" or "wealth preservation," when all along anyone with half a brain screwed on properly knows that its just part of the game.

The blog you are reading, Money Daily, has been warning for weeks and months that the recovery in the US was artificial and not long-lasting. The airwaves are full of blame for congress and fear over the intricacies over proposed financial regulation, but the truth of the matter is that the financial collapse which began in August 2007, accelerated into the Fall of 2008 and the Winter of 2009, was never really resolved. Financial firms such as Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo were not liquidated as they should have been, but bailed out by government fiat, using taxpayer dollars to fund the excesses of a banking system gone wild.

Now, those problems are bubbling up under the surface, and, akin to an actual volcano, are about to spew the flotsam of mal-investment all over the markets. Stocks are wickedly overvalued, the US economy is in immediate danger of re-implosion and many parts of he global system, especially Europe, are in worse shape, so get ready for Financial Armageddon Part II, which was correctly forecast here for months and yesterday identified as the breaking point, when the number of daily new lows shot past the corresponding number of new highs, a trend which accelerated today.

All of the major indices closed the session by crashing through their respective 200-day moving averages, and all are in negative territory for the year. All are also off by more than 10% from their recent highs, the technical definition of a correction, though that small tidbit is the least of what's on people's minds. Where the slide may stop has become an open question.

Adding to the myriad of global problems besetting the markets was today's announcement that 471,000 people filed initial unemployment claims in the most recent week. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits has been growing recently, adding to the "double dip" argument, which now seems to have been the correct call after all.

Dow 10,068.01, -376.36 (3.60%)
NASDAQ 2,204.01, -94.36 (4.11%)
S&P 500 1,071.59, -43.46 (3.90%)
NYSE Composite 6,653.00, -274.21 (3.96%)

Not only was there a dearth of buyers in the marketplace, but all the major indices closed at or near their lows of the day and trading volume was spectacular as well. Advancing issues were completely overwhelmed by decliners, 5162-561; new lows superseded new highs, 312-77. The rout is on, and today's action was only the first or second round. The full force of deflation has yet to be fully comprehended or felt by market participants, though the selling in the oil futures should have provided some indication of what's to come, if the stock moves weren't already enough of an indication.

NYSE Volume 9,629,935,000
NASDAQ Volume 3,258,398,750

Crude oil tumbled to fresh, 10-month lows, as the June futures contracted expired and traders were bolting from it like it was the plague. Crude dropped $1.96, to $68.01, though the contract traded as low as the $65 range. Gold slipped $4.80, to $1,187.80, and silver fell another 40 cents, to $17.69, as investors scrambled into cash positions.

There isn't much more to add to today's monstrosity other than it was entirely expected and astute individuals should be already fully in cash or equivalents, tools of trades or illiquid assets of tangible value because this is only the beginning of what may turn out to be a final reckoning for the likes of zombie banks such as Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

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