Friday, April 13, 2012

China's Slowing GDP a Symptom of Faltering Global Economy

Yesterday's rumor that China would report first quarter GDP of upwards of 9% growth - which fueled the ramp-up in stocks on Thursday - turned into today's reality that China's economy is slowing, and quickly.

When the news that China's economy grew less than expected - by 8.1%, the slowest rate of growth in the world's most populous country in nearly three years - traders in Europe and the US could not sell shares of selected equities quickly enough. By the time US markets opened, futures had cratered to their lowest levels of the morning and the selling continued throughout the lackluster session.

By he close, Thursday's gains were all but eviscerated, leaving investors to wonder what comes next in terms of the global economic condition.

Also, prior to the open, two major banks, JP Morgan Chase (JPM) and Wells-Fargo (WFC) announced first quarter earnings. Both beat estimates, but the stocks sold off on the reports, many analysts citing bookkeeping chicanery for the better-than-expected returns.

By the end of the day, JPM dropped 3.64%, while WFC lost 3.47%. Both stocks are near 52-week highs and are currently looking like serious short-sell candidates.

The Chinese data should not have come as a surprise. Since most of China's recent growth has been tied to exports - mainly to the US and Europe - slack demand has crimped output and China's nascent middle class is not yet robost enough to fill in the growth gap. Concerns over the debt condition of the Eurozone have not abated, and, in fact, may be exacerbated as Spain's situation worsens.

Sooner or later, principals are going to have to come to terms with the global condition of faltering sovereign nations, an excessive overhang of debt and limited solutions from fiscal and monetary authorities. The search for yield has many investors scrambling again into dividend-paying stocks or the marginal returns of US treasuries, which rallied once more, the ten-year dipping to 1.99% at the close of trading.

In such an environment, there is no safe harbor except for hard assets, though even oil, gold and silver were pounded lower on the news.

The major averages finished the week with losses of around two percent. The idea that stocks sporting solid gains for the first quarter have been selling off nevertheless, portends more downside for equity investors.

Deflation is a cruel environment, for which most in the financial arena are ill-prepared. The global economy is close to stall speed, which, for most ordinary people, is bliss, though the highly-leveraged worldwide financial system is surely strained at present.

Dow 12,849.67, -136.91 (1.05%)
NASDAQ 3,011.33, -44.22 (1.45%)
S&P 500 1,370.27, -17.30 (1.25%)
NYSE Composite 7,937.65, -102.31 (1.27%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,437,334,625
NYSE Volume 3,433,928,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1332-4234
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 95-69
WTI crude oil: 102.83, -0.81
Gold: 1,660.20, -20.40
Silver: 31.39, -1.14

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