Thursday, May 6, 2010

Major Market Madness as EU Faces an Abyss

Greece has exploded into near-anarchy. Most of Southern Europe is about to enter similar circumstances, as Italy, Spain and Portugal face the same kind of debt crisis that is sweeping the globe. Ireland and Iceland have already felt the wrath of economic unwinding and the panic doesn't stop at small-country borders.

The unprecedentedly-swift breakdown which occurred today on US stock markets is a symptom of a wider contagion, a currency, central bank, sovereign confidence crisis.

Around 2:00 pm, with stocks already suffering significant losses and live video of protesters being attacked by riot police in Athens airing worldwide, markets turned even more dire, doubling their losses in a matter of minutes. By 2:15, the wheels were off as the Dow fell from 250 points down to a 990-point loss in the blink of an eye. For about 10 minutes, markets were in freefall. Traders reported a near-complete capitulation, with buyers completely absent from the market in almost all stocks.

Once again, however, the slide was staunched by some heavy-handed trading in futures and the more-than-likely subterfuge of the major investment banks and their allies in crime, the government-approved President's Working Group on Financial Markets (Plunge Protection Team. i.e., the PPT). As quickly as the markets fell, the rebounded. The Dow recovered to a loss of roughly 400 points and seemed to stabilize at that point. After a wild 15 minutes of trading that left everybody stunned and questioning exactly what happened, the markets churned onward toward the close, ending with massive losses, nonetheless.

Dow 10,520.32, -347.80 (3.20%)
NASDAQ 2,319.64, -82.65 (3.44%)
S&P 500 1,128.15, -37.72 (3.24%)
NYSE Composite 7,011.92, -246.10 (3.39%

The substantial declines on the day were more than bourn out by the internal indicators. Declining issues completely overwhelmed advancers, 6015-742, or, by a margin of about 9:1. It was one of the biggest one-day routs in recent years, and there have been a good number of those. The key measure was the number of new highs to new lows, which completely flipped over from a year-long trend. There were 612 new lows to 196 new highs, a complete reversal, which, if history is any kind of guide, is a loud siren that the bears are firmly back in control.

Another screaming indicator was the day's volume, literally off the charts. This is the kind of volume seen only at the extremes, likely one of the 5 or 10 highest-volume days in the history of US stock markets. Since the direction was decidedly to the downside, more selling should be expected in days to come.

NYSE Volume 11,772,131,000.00
NASDAQ Volume 4,292,823,500.00

Concerning the heavy selling that sent stocks into a short-lived abyss, the commentators on CNBC cited such simplistic theories as a computer glitch, false prints and other preposterous theories, all along avoid the obvious truth: the economic crisis did not end in March of 2009, when stocks began a year-long rally. Financial markets are still fragile, one might say, tenuous, and only clandestine moves by insiders kept stocks from recording a record sell-off.

At some point, CNBC or another expert may release a story explaining the sudden downturn on the back of a rogue trade or computer malfunction. Any such story should be viewed with an additional dose of skepticism if only because of the various levels the major indices broke through during the panic. All of them shattered their 50-day moving averages during the session and closed well below them. Markets have been trending lower for the better part of the past two weeks and this kind of momentum-turning-to-panic trading cannot be discounted as a one-off event.

The likelihood of further market declines in the very near term and extending into the longer term is very high. The debt-deflation bomb has not yet run its course. Not until massive amounts of money and companies are liquidated will the disease be purged from the global economy. Expect widespread panic in European markets as countries fall like dominoes with a side-effect around the world. US markets will not be spared, as the US is only the best among peers at this juncture. Major economies will survive, though France, Germany, Great Britain and the USA will be severely crippled by year's end.

Our beloved "recovery" has been a complete fabrication, fueled by the media and the mechanics of commerce in Washington and on Wall Street. Individual investors have largely shunned equities in favor of bonds and tangible assets such as gold, which was an outside winner on the day. Greece and the rest of the Southern European countries are financially on death's door, facing complete default. Soon, one will capitulate and flee the European Union and denounce the Euro. When that occurs, the ten-year experiment at cross-border governance will be essentially over. The EU will disintegrate and the Euro will be completely unwound. The main hope is that troops do not begin excursions into neighboring nations, as has been the centuries-old history of Europe.

Even today, as it has been throughout the life of the EU, the stronger Norther economies have considerable enmity toward their Southern neighbors. The chance of the entire continent devolving into skirmishes over currencies would neither be unexpected nor unprecedented. Wars are usually how nations resolve major financial squeezes and Europe is certainly in one now.

Besides the dire conditions in Europe, the Gulf oil spill remains unchecked and tomorrow's non-farm employment report - to be released to the public at 8:30 am ET - doesn't offer much optimism. Most of the supposed 185,000 jobs created in April will be attributed mostly to government hiring of temporary census workers and the whisper campaign is that not as many were needed due, ironically, of the efficiency of the operation. Should the non-farm number fall significantly below expectations - a real possibility - an immediate continuation of the plunge will probably occur.

The best hope is for the proverbial, "dead cat bounce," which might ease tensions temporarily, until, at best, the next round of crisis selling. So severely strained and wrought with fraud, inter-leveraging and toxicity, financial markets have entered a semi-permanent state of crisis. When this chapter of global finance is finally unwound, the world won't end, but the pain will have spread deeper and wider than anyone could have expected.

For the baby boomer generation, the nightmare may have only begun. Those without high debt may find themselves in better positions than many of their over-leveraged peers.

Some of the numbers emerging from this historic day in finance (and underscoring the idea that this was not a one-off event):

Crude oil futures continued their steady decline, losing another $2.86, to close at $77.11, the lowest print in months. Safe-haven gold improved by $22.30, climbing above the $1200 mark to finally settle at $1,196.90. Silver couldn't keep pace, losing 2 cents, to $17.49.

All of the major indices have suffered huge blows over the past two weeks, and all closed below their 50-day moving averages.

The Dow Jones Industrials are less than 100 points higher for the year. For the year, the NASDAQ is up only 50 points, the S&P ahead by just 13 points, the NYSE Composite - the broadest index - is down 173 points, all of that loss, and more, occurring today.

All of the 30 Dow components closed lower, many of them with 3.5 to 4.5% losses. Citigroup touched a low of 3.90, closing at 4.01, as all financial stocks were pounded lower.

Treasuries and the US dollar were sharply higher. The dollar index hit fresh highs while the Euro broke down to 14-month lows against the greenback. The benchmark 10-year treasury closed at a 3.40% yield, 55 basis points lower than just a month ago.

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