Stock Prices Have Fallen For Six Weeks In A Row

Well, it’s official.  U.S. stock prices have fallen for six weeks in a row.  So will next week make it seven?  The last time stocks declined for seven weeks in a row was back in May 2001 when the “dot-com” bubble was bursting.  At this point, the Dow has declined by approximately 5 percent since the beginning of June.  Things don’t look good.  So exactly what is going on here?  Well, it is undeniable that the recent mini-bubble in stocks has been too good to be true.  The S&P 500 had surged nearly 30 percent since last September.  Much of this has been fueled by the Federal Reserve’s latest round of quantitative easing, but now that is coming to an end in a few weeks and investors are a bit spooked.  Meanwhile, wars and revolutions are sweeping the Middle East, Japan is dealing with the damage caused by the tsunami and by Fukushima, Europe is trying to figure out how to bail out Greece again and the U.S. debt crisis is continually getting worse.  In addition, wave after wave of bad economic news is certainly not helping the mood on Wall Street.  In many ways, a “perfect storm” is developing and many are now extremely concerned about what the rest of 2011 is going to bring for Wall Street.

QE2 is slated to conclude at the end of June, and many investors are deeply disappointed that it does not appear that we are not going to see QE3 right away.  Many fear that the end of quantitative easing will pop the current mini-bubble in stocks and commodities.  At the moment, financial markets are more jittery than they have been in a long time.

Frank Davis, director of sales and trading with LEK Securities, says that there is a lot of pessimism on Wall Street right now….

“There’s a lot of emotion in this market at the moment, and the conversations among traders are nearly all leaning toward the bear side”

So what are some of the signs that this downturn on Wall Street may turn into a full-blown crash?

Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, junk bonds are being sold off at an alarming rate right now.  Does the following quote from the Journal remind anyone of 2008 at least a little bit?….

A steep decline in prices of bonds backed by subprime mortgages has spread through the riskiest segments of the credit markets, ending rallies in high-yield corporate bonds and commercial real-estate debt.

Also, many of the big Wall Street banks are already laying off workers.  In a previous article I wrote about the potential for Wall Street to go into “panic mode“, I noted that Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are all laying people off or are considering staff cuts.

The truth is that the big banks on Wall Street are not nearly as stable as most people think that they are.  Moody’s recently warned that it may downgrade the debt ratings of Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

Another major story on Wall Street right now is oil.  OPEC recently announced that oil production levels will not be raised, even though the price of oil has been hovering around $100 a barrel.

World oil supplies are very tight right now.  In fact, the globe actually consumed 5 million barrels per day more oil than it produced during 2010.  This was possible because the difference was apparently made up by drawing down reserves.

But if oil supplies are this tight already, what is going to happen if a major war (as opposed to all of the minor wars that are already happening) erupts in the Middle East?

The world is sitting on the edge of a financial disaster.

It is important to keep in mind that Europe is also in far worse financial condition than it was just prior to the financial collapse of 2008.

It is being reported that German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is convinced that a “full-blown” financial meltdown by Greece is a very real possibility. The cost of insuring Greek debt has soared to a brand new record high, and officials all over Europe are in panic mode.

But financial problems are not just happening in Greece.  The largest bank in France has just cut in half the amount of cash that customers can withdraw from ATMs each week.

Most Americans don’t spend much time thinking about the financial condition of Europe, but the truth is that what happens in Europe is going to play a major role in the months and years ahead.

Of course most Americans already know that the U.S. government is a financial mess.

As the “debt ceiling deadline” of August 2nd draws closer, the U.S. government has been raiding retirement funds in order to stay under the debt limit.

Many investors are quite nervous about what may happen if the U.S. government actually does start defaulting on debt on August 2nd.

Others claim that the U.S. government is already in default.

The only Chinese agency that gives credit ratings on sovereign debt says that the U.S. government “has already been defaulting” and the Chinese government has been repeatedly warning that the U.S. needs to get its finances in order.

In any event, this debt ceiling drama will get resolved one way or another.

The bigger question is this….

How is the U.S. government going to respond when the next financial crash happens?

Back in 2008, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government took unprecedented steps to prop up Wall Street.

But can they really do that again if we see another major crash in 2011 or 2012?

Many believe that things will be totally different this time around.  Just check out what Jim Rogers recently told CNBC….

“The debts that are in this country are skyrocketing,” he said. “In the last three years the government has spent staggering amounts of money and the Federal Reserve is taking on staggering amounts of debt.

“When the problems arise  next time…what are they going to do? They can’t quadruple the debt again. They cannot print that much more money. It’s gonna be worse the next time around.”

Jim Rogers is right about that.

The next time we see a collapse on the scale of 2008 it is going to be a much bigger mess.

Global financial markets are extremely vulnerable right now and there are a whole host of potential “tipping points” which could push them over the edge.

The Federal Reserve and the U.S. government more or less used up all of their ammunition on the 2008 crisis.

If we see another collapse in 2011 or 2012 there is not going to be much of a safety net available.

The entire world financial system is simply swamped with way too much debt.  The world has never seen anything even remotely close to the gigantic mountains of debt that have been accumulated around the world today.

The current global financial system is not sustainable.  More crashes are inevitable.  A lot of people are going to get steamrolled.

Hopefully you will not be one of them.

8 Theories For Why The Stock Market Plunged Almost 1000 Points In A Matter Of Minutes On May 6th

In one of the most dizzying half-hours in stock market history, the Dow plunged nearly 1,000 points on Thursday, May 6th before bouncing back to close down 347.80 points.  This represented the biggest intraday decline since 1987.  But what made this crash so absolutely shocking is that it happened in the course of less than an hour.  Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. the Dow lost over 700 points before dramatically bouncing back about 600 points.  Two of the 30 stocks in the Dow, Procter & Gamble and 3M, plunged more than 30% in just 15 minutes.  Accenture went from trading at around 40 dollars a share all the way down to one cent before bouncing back.  Traders and investors were left completely stunned and wondering what in the world had just happened.

So what did happen?

The following are some of the most common theories being put forward to explain what happened….

#1) A Bad Trade

It has been widely suggested that a “fat finger trade” was responsible for triggering the panic.  According to CNBC, “sources” have told that network that a trader (possibly at Citigroup) entered a “b” for billion instead of an “m” for million in a trade involving Procter & Gamble.

However, Citigroup has already announced that it has found “no evidence” that it was involved in any erroneous trades.  In fact, a statement was released in which Citigroup spokesman Stephen Cohen said this….

“At this point, we have no evidence that Citi was involved in any erroneous transaction.”

#2) A Computer Glitch

New York Stock Exchange spokesman Rich Adamonis says that “there were a number of erroneous trades” on May 6th, and that these could have been caused by computer error.

And the truth is that trading in the financial markets is more automated and more reliant on computers than it ever has been before.  Trading literally moves at lightning speed now, and a number of analysts are warning that the pace of the market is so fast at this point that it is really easy for things to spin out of control very quickly.

But if this was really primarily caused by a “computer glitch”, how are investors supposed to have any confidence at all in the market?  After all, if a computer error can wipe out half your account in less than an hour, why invest at all?

#3) Cascading Stop Losses

Once the market hits certain technical levels, it is going to automatically start triggering stop loss orders.  Once those stop loss orders are triggered, it will push the market down further thus triggering more stop loss orders.

While there have been some protections implemented to guard against this kind of thing, the reality is that it does still happen.

#4) Hackers

Hackers have become more sophisticated and more cunning than ever before.  In fact, the bigger a target is, the more enjoyment most hackers get out of taking them down.  Is it a possible that someone could have hacked in to the New York Stock Exchange?

#5) Cyberterrorism

Rogue nations and terrorist organizations have been developing their “cyber warfare” capabilities for some time now.  We have been repeatedly warned that someday we will see an “Internet 9/11”.  Could this stock market plunge be a preview of that?

#6) Fear Of The European Debt Crisis Spreading

There are mounting concerns in the financial markets about Greece’s financial condition and that the European debt crisis could spread around the globe.

In fact, the Dow has lost 631 points, or more than 5%, in just the last three days amidst worries about the situation in Greece.  This represents the biggest three day drop since March 2009.

#7) Stop Hunting

Anyone who has spent much time in the Forex market knows what this is all about.  The truth is that some of the big financial sharks in the marketplace seem to really enjoy blowing out stop losses.

So could have this have been a situation where a stop loss hunting expedition spun wildly out of control?

#8) A Real Panic

There is also the possibility that this was a real financial panic.  There are huge concerns about what is going on in Europe and the currency markets are fluctuating wildly.  The Dow was already down several hundred points even before the massive plunge took place.  The reality is that there is a lot of fear in the financial markets right now.

But if it was a real panic, then why did the Dow bounce back so quickly?  Well, it is the job of the “plunge protection team” to keep the stock market from declining too rapidly.  So did the “plunge protection team” swing into action today?  Well, the truth is that we will probably never know because the general public is not supposed to know when they intervene.

In any event, the next couple of days should hopefully make all of this a lot clearer.  The trading during the afternoon of May 6th at the big firms will be gone over with a fine-toothed comb, and the exchanges will be closely analyzing their systems for any glitches.

It has already been announced that some of the most erroneous trades will be cancelled.  The Nasdaq and NYSE’s ARCA trading unit have both said that they will cancel trades executed between 2:40 p.m. and 3 p.m. on May 6th where a stock price rose or fell more than 60 percent from the last trade in that security at 2:40 p.m.

But this episode shows just how vulnerable our financial markets really are.  After witnessing what we saw today, it is going to be really hard to have confidence in the system.

In fact, even if this was just one “bad trade” or a “simple computer glitch”, the reality is that this episode is going to inject even more fear into a marketplace that is already filled with tension.

When fear grips a market things can go south very, very quickly.  The truth is that markets tend to fall more quickly than they rise, and if a wave of panic starts sweeping over the financial markets we could see things get quite messy in the coming days.

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