Asia was awash in red ink, as Japan circles the monetary drain (must be Adam Smith's "invisible hand" pulling the plug) sending the Nikkei down to new depths, as noted below, along with Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index, which suffered an even more severe loss in points and percentage:
Nikkei 225: 15,713.39, -372.05, -2.31%
Hang Seng Index 18,545.80, -742.37, -3.85%
With China's markets closed for the week as the country celebrates Chinese New Year, over in Hong Kong, it was back to work after a three-day hiatus. The HSI fell out at the open and never recovered. As many in the US apparently do not know, all of Asia's major markets - including Australia, recently - are in bear market territory. The Hang Seng topped out at 28,588 in late April, 2015. Today's loss puts it down 35% from its highs.
While the Asian markets were spitting up blood, Europe opened with a bang to the downside, as Sweden announced its central bank was cutting interest rates further into the negative. Sweden’s Riksbank cut its benchmark interest rate from -0.35% to -0.5%. So, theoretically, anyone wishing to keep 100,000 Krona in a Swedish bank has the awesome privilege of paying the bank 500 of those Krona for the year.
That, in addition to the ongoing banking collapse (Duetshe Bank, in particular), sent Euro stock bourses reeling. Germany's DAX was off 2.93%. In England, the FTSE was down 2.36%. France's CAC 40 fell by 4.05%, and the Euro Stoxx 50 was battered some 108 points, a 3.90% downside.
US traders left no stone unturned, sending the markets close to the August lows and the NASDAQ within 50 points of the magic bear market line (-20%), until a spurious story about Saudi oil cuts saved the day around 2:30 pm. The Dow was down more than 400 points at the lows, and there was some talk about the S&P bouncing off a key level at 1812. Truth be told, key levels and support lines aren't going to matter much in coming days, weeks and months, because there is growing evidence that recession has arrived in the US, just as it has washed up on the shores of Asia and Europe.
Now, back to those off-Wall Street developments that offer many clues on how to know the economy isn't doing very well.
First, there was the outage at ZeroHedge.com just as the market was opening. Anybody who wants the straight, uncensored, bearish view of markets instinctively heads for "the Hedge" as it is known, the site famous for it's inveterate grinding on the wheels of finance. An apparent DDOS attack took the site offline for about 30 minutes and was the second such attack in as many weeks.
While the culprit is unknown, tin-foil cap types point to the NSA or another government agency which wishes to keep at least a leash on the unruly junkyard dog.
Second, MSN Money disabled comments on all its stories. While news of this was not reported widely, its unknown exactly when the company decided it didn't want to hear from its readers. MSN Money follows the lead of Bloomberg, which disabled commenting across its web properties last year. Censorship. It's what's for dinner, and you can't complain about it.
Third, Janet Yellen completed her annual testimony to congress today with a visit to the Senate Banking Committee, chaired by Richard Shelby (R-AL), and failed to goose the markets. When the Fed Chair has less influence on markets than a teen beauty queen at a gay pride rally, take that as a sign markets are more than a little jittery.
Gold and silver continued to rally, with gold up more than $50 at one point in the day. Silver was fast approaching $16/oz. It was under $15 as of Monday's fix. The two precious metals are the best-performing assets (along with select bonds) of 2016.
And finally, Yahoo Editor-in-Chief, Andy Serwer, had to pen this little gem of statist nonsense, explaining that nobody knows why stocks are going down. Server proves that he has quit an imagination, or none.
All in all, it appears the media, government, and the financial world are not about ready to let the muppets get a feeling that something bad is heading their way, despite Yellen fielding questions about the Fed being "out of bullets" and negative interest rates.
The status quo is getting very, very nervous and it's beginning to show. With the US heading into a three-day weekend (Monday is President's Day. In case your boss didn't tell you, you don't have to come in.) and China's markets re-opening on Monday, tomorrow's trading might be more than just a little interesting. The week has gone badly so far, and it is doubtful many will want to head into the break long.
Hate Crime for Thursday:
S&P 500: 1,829.08, -22.78 (1.23%)
Dow: 15,660.18, -254.56 (1.60%)
NASDAQ: 4,266.84, -16.76 (0.39%)
Crude Oil 27.30 -0.55% Gold 1,247.00 +4.39% EUR/USD 1.1316 +0.32% 10-Yr Bond 1.64 -3.58% Corn 360.00 -0.07% Copper 2.01 -0.72% Silver 15.80 +3.36% Natural Gas 1.99 -2.79% Russell 2000 953.72 -1.01% VIX 28.14 +7.04% BATS 1000 19,734.69 -1.33% GBP/USD 1.4484 -0.35% USD/JPY 112.5900 -0.01%