Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stocks Whacked as Italian Bonds Blow Out, Euro Dives

Today was all about Italy, in the aftermath of Tuesday's tumultuous parliamentary session, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced that he would resign after parliament passes economic reforms demanded by the European Union. He also promised not to run in Italy's next election.

While the initial market response to Berlusconi's departure was mildly positive, in the belief that a new government might make a difference, the bond markets broadly disagreed, sending yields on Italy's 10-year note to over 7%, a level broadly believed to be one at which Italy would not be able to finance itself. The country has built up a mammoth debt load of €1.9 trillion, and financial experts agree that at 7% on the 10-year and an even higher rate on the five-year, Italy will be unable to avoid either default or a bailout by EU authorities.

With the bond markets were facing up to Italy's demise, the Euro traded lower against other currencies, including the US dollar, which, in turn caused a collapse in US equity prices, culminating in a mammoth decline on the Dow of nearly 400 points or 3.2%, with the other major indices dropping by even larger percentages.

The conditions in Europe continue to deteriorate by the day, and the Italian problems could bring on an even more calamitous situation than has prevailed prior to this most recent debt catastrophe because Italy is simply too large for a bailout. There simply is not enough money available to the ECB or the recently-enlarged EFSF.

All other economic data and financial news paled by comparison to the realization that Italy would follow Ireland, Greece and Portugal down the debt-hole.

Every market sector was lower, led by financial stocks, conglomerates and basic materials, each of which registered a decline of more than 4.5 percent.

It was a dismal day for stocks, but one the market had been anticipating, though hoping it would never come. A default by a country the size of Italy may cause the Euro to become vastly devalued (and maybe even doom it as a viable currency), pushing up the US dollar, exactly the opposite of what the Wall Street insiders prefer. It's another seminal moment in the financial crisis that will not end.

Dow 11,780.94, -389.24 (3.20%)
NASDAQ 2,621.65, -105.84 (3.88%)
S&P 500 1,229.11, -46.81 (3.67%)
NYSE Composite 7,357.91, -314.00 (4.09%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,107,168,250
NYSE Volume 4,639,047,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 634-5048
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 39-97
WTI crude oil: 95.74, -1.06
Gold: 1,791.60, -7.60
Silver: 34.36, -0.79

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