Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Equities Continue Retreat on Greece, Euro Breakup Fears

Sooner or later, the deniers will realize that the global economy is coming apart at the seams and that holding any kind of asset that isn't tangible, liquid or immediately tradable may not be worth the risk.

Almost daily, there are signs that the euro experiment is imploding, with Greece and France now at the forefront, but Italy, Spain and Portugal not far behind in terms of insolvency, anarchy and chaos.

The issues are the same: governments promised too much, spent too much and now don't have the funds to continue operating as they were during boom times. The specific trouble for nations using the Euro as currency is that they cannot print their way out of their messes, a la the United States, and must rely on the continued support of their neighboring nations and the ECB and IMF to fund their operations.

In Greece, the leader of Greece's Left Coalition party, Alexis Tsipras, began to start forming a coalition government, calling for repudiation of the bailout measures forced upon the nation and an investigation into whether the bailouts were even legal.

As Greece moved closer and closer to anarchy, chaos, and the eventual default upon its debts, it is becoming more clear that Greece will not long remain a member of the Eurozone, it's fate sealed by decades of underfunding pensions, loose tax policies and general corruption at high levels of the government.

France's new president, Francois Hollande, has promised voters to curtail the austerity measures that have cut jobs and pensions and has crippled the nation's economy.

European stocks were, by and large, down on the day, while in the US, the major indices suffered heavy losses early on, but rallied in the afternoon on nothing but vapors and in defiance of the reality offered by a collapsing European Union and general sluggishness in the global economy.

The Dow was down as many as 198 points before the afternoon rally cut those losses in half. The same was true on the NASDAQ and S&P, the latter down 22 points before shaving them to a marginal decline.

Despite the completely bogus and likely foolhardy buying into the dip mentality that is pervasive in these day-traded, momentum markets, the smartest of the smart money has probably already headed for the hills, seeking safe havens in treasuries or other hard assets, though one could not tell that from the action in gold, which, along with silver, was battered down and did not experience relief.

Central banks have been buying gold with both hands recently, all the better for them is their ability to dictate price to the market, swooping in to buy at bargain prices. However, today's activity was reminiscent of early 2008, before the great collapse that took all assets lower, though gold and silver began rebounding months before equities. Today's trade was more than likely the result of margin calls on stocks, being paid off by selling gold and silver, another foolhardy strategy.

While the utter collapse of the Euro and the global economy is by no means a certainty, signs of slowing and antecedent deflation are emerging, the real question being how far the US Federal Reserve, the ECB and other central banks will go with more policy easing and money printing before the game engulfs them completely.

The late-day rally on wall Street may have eased some nerves and cooled some of the fear, but the trend is surely in place, as stocks have fallen in four of the past five sessions (five for five for the Dow).

Also notable was the heavy volume, another sign that investors who want out are getting out, albeit not at the prices they may have wanted. Additionally, new highs - new lows has been negative for three consecutive sessions.

Dow 12,932.09, -76.44 (0.59%)
NASDAQ 2,946.27, -11.49 (0.39%)
S&P 500 1,363.72, -5.86 (0.43%)
NYSE Composite 7,887.26, -61.50 (0.77%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,169,278,000
NYSE Volume 4,215,958,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2403-3181
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 110-178
WTI crude oil: 97.01, -0.93
Gold: 1,604.50, -34.60
Silver: 29.46, -0.66

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