Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Dow Sheds Record 1,175 Points, Global Markets in Panic Mode

Anybody already not convinced that stocks have been relentlessly pumped by buybacks and central bank interventions over the past nine years may have had a rude awakening over the past few days and especially on Monday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost a record 1,175 points in the week-opening session.

While the percentage loss was nowhere near record-setting, it still managed to crack the top 20 of all-time percentage losses for a single trading day. Combined with Friday's collapse, the Dow is down over seven percent in just the past two sessions, wiping out all the gains from an over-exuberant January.

What happened?

Interest rates exploded. That was the first salvo from massively intertwined markets. The ten-year note, which has been comfortably below 2.5% for most of the last nine years of "recovery" following the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) from 2008-09, smashed through 2.80% on Friday and continued its ascent Monday before some odd force pushed US treasury rates lower across the curve. The 10-year note ended at 2.79, still higher than anybody expected, but not at a level that would cause a panic.

Other than the obvious villain in the bond pits, the other dynamic at play is the obvious overvaluation of stocks, and that is a global problem. By artificially keeping interest rates too low for too long (avoid the pain that should be measured across the board), boosting asset prices in stocks alone, the Fed, ECB, BOJ, PBOC and Swiss National Bank (SNB) created a market structure with one sure feature: failure.

Because borrowing money was such an easy proposition, many of the major corporations on the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P took to buying back their own shares, enriching only major shareholders and especially top executives with cushy compensation plans. That gambit appears to be over, and it's troubling, because when companies buy their own stock at inflated prices, they own it at those prices. Selling it back into the market at reduced prices causes a loss, which in turn causes earning to collapse. That is the expected conclusion, already evident in some recent quarterly filings. More carnage - much more - is to come.

It has been reported that 84% of all wealth created in 2017 went to the top one percent globally. That's an unsustainable level of wealth inequality largely gone unreported by the news-speakers, analysts and squawkers on Wall Street and the economists in the government. The one percent at the top of the wealth ladder will only be marginally affected by losses, largely because they have more money than they need and probably have been doing most of the trimming over recent days. Who will be harmed? Pension funds, which are already massively underfunded and cannot maintain any measure of credibility in a market crash currently gaining momentum.

Those who have been derided for warning about just this kind of occurrence are now being proven to have seen the most obvious overvaluation and manipulation of markets early. Being early and being wrong are two different animals, but anybody who isn't invested at the moment is - at long last - looking fairly smart.

The global economy has been sputtering and stuttering ever since the crash of 2008. Nothing that caused the problems then has been fixed. In fact, credit has been extended even further than the levels seen prior to that singular solvency event.

Claims (especially those by President Trump, who has unfortunately embraced the massive gains and now will bear the brunt of blame for the losses) that the economy is strong and growing are largely a smoke screen hiding mountains of debt and poor financial management in government. The US Treasury is more than $20 trillion in the hole. Other major governments, especially Japan, are over-leveraged and broke.

The continuing narrative that the economy is strong - which will be heard repeatedly as the market correction (or slow motion crash) extends - is complete garbage, shoveled to an unsuspecting public that desperately wants to hear only good news. The federal government is broke. State governments are broke. Pension plans cannot deliver on the promises made to employees and retirees. Households are deeply in debt and businesses have enriched only their shareholders in recent years. The recipe for collapse has been ripe and the meal is now on the table.

As Wall Street prepares for another onslaught of selling, markets in the East have already taken the low road. In Japan, the NIKKEI was down over 1,000 points. The Hang Song dropped 1,600, or five percent.

This is not over by a long shot. Instead of an end of the bull market, this should be characterized as the beginning of the end for globally-induced monetary madness and an epochal message to believers in what were once known as "free" markets.

Nothing is safe.

At the Close, Monday, February 5, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,345.75, -1,175.21 (-4.60%)
NASDAQ: 6,967.53, -273.42 (-3.78%)
S&P 500: 2,648.94, -113.19 (-4.10%)
NYSE Composite: 12,572.93, -512.42 (-3.92%)
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