While the world's richest and most-influential types were sipping Valpolicella, stuffing themselves full of petit fours at the World Economic Forum in Davos, markets around the world were in turmoil.
Wednesday saw Asian markets fall completely out of bed, with the Nikkei falling into bear market territory for the first time, and Hong Knog's Hang Seng Index off by nearly 750 points and four percent. For a change, it wasn't the Shanghai SSE leading the way. It was down a mere one percent.
Spilling over into the European session, the feeling continued, just as it had almost every day of the new year. The Dax was a relative out-performer, with the German shares off just 2.82%, better, by comparison, than the FTSE 100 (-3.46) and the CAC 40 (-3.45). In effect, the day was a massive loss for holders of European stocks.
In the US, stocks were slammed at the opening bell, a knee-jerk reaction to the worldwide carnage, and the three major indices continued lower until just after noon, with the Dow recording a loss of 566 points.
But, all of a sudden, something changed. The Dow, S&P and NASDAQ all began moving the other way, as if somebody had turned a loose screw or flipped a faulty switch, metaphors which may be closer to the truth than anyone would admit to, in the age of HFT and sophisticated algos.
The afternoon was all about erasing the embarrassment of the morning session, and it was done with considerable gusto and untold amounts of money from god-know-whom-or-where. The NASDAQ erased a 125-point decline, moving steadily higher to edge into positive territory in the final hour, though it could not hold onto gains, falling back into the red in the final 20 minutes of trading.
The losses in the other two indices were a little stickier, though the Dow improved dramatically, finishing down by just short of 250 points. The S&P lost 22.
So, what happened? Nothing, really, except that short sellers took profits midday, then sat back and counted their money, supposedly. The smart money - and there always is smart money - is currently on red. And it's going to stay there until the selling stops, which, if the past two weeks are any indication, won't be any time soon.
For instance, the Dow still has 1200 points to get to bear market territory. The NASDAQ and S&P are similarly down about 15% from their highs (last May) and will need a little more time. Don't be surprised if there's a snap-back rally with some ferocity over the next two days as options expire on Friday.
What may be of more technical interest (no pun intended) is the yield on the ten-year note, which closed today under 2.00% for the first time in nearly a year. Following the federal funds rate hike in December, rates were supposed to rise. They've gone in the opposite direction, to the Fed's dismay. Look for the Federal Reserve to call an emergency meeting in the not-so-distant future if the selling doesn't abate shortly.
S&P 500: 1,859.33, -22.00 (1.17%)
Dow: 15,766.74, -249.28 (1.56%)
NASDSAQ: 4,471.69, -5.26 (0.12%)
Crude Oil 26.76 -5.97% Gold 1,101.20 +1.11% EUR/USD 1.0891 -0.18% 10-Yr Bond 1.9840 -2.51% Corn 368.00 +0.07% Copper 1.98 +0.13% Silver 14.17 +0.35% Natural Gas 2.14 +2.58% Russell 2000 999.31 +0.45% VIX 27.59 +5.91% BATS 1000 19,792.43 -1.24% GBP/USD 1.4193 +0.22% USD/JPY 116.9350 -0.60%