Sunday, October 12, 2008
Do the Markets Indicate a Depression?
The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.
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In 1931, the Dow fell below it's 200-month moving average and didn't consistently trade above it again until 1944. Following this event were the worse two years of the Great Depression in 1932 and 1933. Long term trading of the major indices below the 200-month has not reappeared in the U.S. markets since that time. Despite the huge drop in 1987, none of the indices even touched this line. In the recent 2002 market drop when the Nasdaq lost close to 80% of its value, it pierced its 200-month moving average slightly for only one month. The Dow and S&P500 were way above their 200-month averages at the 2002 bottom. Things are worse in this market sell off however and we may be entering the Depression era trading pattern once again.
This week the Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq all fell below their 200-month moving averages. The violations weren't exactly minimal either. At its low, the Dow was about 600 points below this line, the S&P more than 150 points and Nasdaq around 250 points. We will have to wait until the 31st to see if October is the first month where the indices close below this level. We will need to see a few monthly closes below the 200-month to confirm that the market is telegraphing the first economic depression in the U.S. since the 1930s. All we can say for certain now is that things are worse now than have been in many decades and we are in an ugly secular (long-term) bear market.
There are a number of other indicators indicating greater problems in the market than existed in the early 2000s and during the 1987 mega crash as well. In 2000 to 2002 sell off, intermediate market bottoms could be determined when the number of stocks on the NYSE trading below their 200-day (not month) moving averages fell to around 20%. On Friday, the figure dropped to 3%, indicating almost every U.S. stock was in a bear trading pattern. This seems to be unprecedented (once again with the possible exception of the 1930s). The TED spread, a measure of confidence in the financial system (the higher the number, the less the confidence), hit a new record high of 4.13 on Friday morning, further distancing itself from the slightly above 3.00 reading during the 1987 market route. The VIX, a measure of volatility, reached 76.94 on Friday, way above its high of 55 in 2002, but still below the total meltdown level of 150 that it got to in 1987.
It is not surprising that U.S. stocks attempted a rally on Friday. They are about as oversold as they could possibly get. Nevertheless, the Dow and S&P still couldn't close up on the day. And the Dow has now managed to close down over 100 points for seven days in a row. It dropped 18% on the week (still not as bad as many overseas markets, the FTSE in the UK was down 20% and the Nikkei in Japan was down 24%). If the market manages to continue the rally it started on Friday afternoon, some test of Friday's lows should take place within four to nine trading days - and then we may have a rally that lasts at least for several weeks. Of course, the market could still go lower sooner rather than later. Strong support levels around 7200 for the Dow, 775 for the S&P (approximately their 2002 lows) and somewhat less strong support of 1500 for Nasdaq have yet to be reached. And even after five crashes (based on intraday drops) in two weeks, another crash day still can't be ruled out.
NEXT: Unlimited Liquidity Today, Unlimited Inflation Tomorrow
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This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.