Wall Street is, at last, getting the just desserts from seven years of Fed policies that have funneled trillions of dollars into the hands of the wealthiest people in the country.
The kicker is that the American public, the 65-70% that still works for a living, are going to get the worst of it.
Today's carnage in US equity markets was not an isolated event by any means. It began years ago, but, in its most current manifestation, the collapse began in China last night, when the SSE fell nearly 5% in its last session of the week.
The contagious selling fever spilled over into European markets, with the DAX, CAC-40, and FTSE-100 ending the day down by 2.54%, 2.38% and 1.93%, respectively.
Prior to markets opening in the US, however, there was a spate of poor economic data released.
Retail sales for December came in at -0.1. PPI went negative (deflation) in December, at -0.2%. Empire Manufacturing (a gauge for economic activity in the NY Fed district, collapsed from a reading of -6.2 in December, to a ghastly -19.4 in January.
Industrial Production fell 0.4%. Capacity Utilization slumped to 76.5%.
Then came the news from Wal-Mart that they would be closing 269 stores this year, with 154 of them in the United States. The full list of Wal-Mart store closings can be seen here.
By the time markets actually opened at 9:30 am ET, futures were showing the Dow down by more than 350 points and the indices all fell off a cliff at the sound of the opening bell.
By midday, the Dow was down more than 500 points, the NASDAQ had shed close to 150, and the S&P was sporting losses of more than 50 points.
While today's crashing stock indices were certainly bloody, they weren't even close to the 10 worst one-day Dow declines of all time, so all is not lost.
As the session wore on, the signs of a failing economy - both here in the US and globally - were everywhere. The 10-year note fell briefly below 2.00%. With 1/2 hour left to go, declining issues were leading advancers roughly 6:1. Intel (INTC) was down nine percent. Citigroup (C) was posting a 6% loss; Microsoft (MSFT) was clinging to a four percent downside. Bank of America (BAC), which was pushing 17 two weeks ago, sliced through 15 and was trading in the range of 14.40, down 4.0% on the day.
With more companies reporting Q4 and annual earnings next week, the action this week and today might just be an appetizer for what's about to come, and that might be a recession, collapsing corporate earnings, liquidations, bankruptcies and the wholesale destruction of pension funds - heavily invested in equities - nationwide.
For its part, the Fed trotted out William Dudley, president of the NY Fed and vice chairman of the FOMc, who noted that negative rates could be considered in light of the recent market volatility. His tongue-lapping of the markets didn't seem to carry much weight. Investors were only interested in getting out and limiting the damage prior to the long weekend.
The day's closing prices:
S&P 500: 1,880.28, -41.56 (2.16%)
Dow: 15,988.08, -390.97 (2.39%)
NASDAQ: 4,488.42, -126.59 (2.74%)
Crude Oil 29.67 -4.90% Gold 1,088.90 +1.43% EUR/USD 1.0920 +0.53% 10-Yr Bond 2.03 -3.10% Corn 362.50 +1.26% Copper 1.95 -1.57% Silver 13.90 +1.14% Natural Gas 2.10 -1.73% Russell 2000 1,005.44 -1.97% VIX 27.70 +15.66% BATS 1000 20,066.91 -1.99% GBP/USD 1.4255 -1.13% USD/JPY 117.0050 -0.97%
For the week:
S&P: -41.76 (-2.17)
Dow: -358.71 (-2.19)
NASDAQ: -155.21 (-3.34)