Monday, October 6, 2008

Today's Global Stock Market Meltdown

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A market sell off spread around the globe last night and is about to reach U.S shores as this is being written. This current round of selling was precipitated by a banking crisis in a number of European countries and in Korea over the weekend. Several Eurozone states moved to guarantee bank deposits and large bank bailouts from last week had to be restructured to make them work. The Asian bourses and Israel was the first to open after this news and the pronounced selling took place from the get go, with a number of exchanges recording crash level drops.

The trouble started on Saturday when the a plan for a coordinated bailout of the European banking system fell apart. Sunday, Germany moved to guarantee all bank deposits (Ireland was the first to do so last week). Austria and Denmark quickly followed suit and then so did Sweden . At the same time, Euro governments moved to shore up a number of troubled banks to prevent the problem from spreading. Germany had to restructure the rescue deal for lender Hypo Real Estate (after only one week), BNP Paribas agreed to buy a majority stake in Fortis which had been partially nationalized by Belgium and the Netherlands last Monday, and UniCredit, Italy's second-biggest bank, announced that it needed to raise capital. Tiny Iceland looked like it was about to become the first country with a banking system that completely collapsed. Across the world in Asia, South Korea's finance minister said Korean banks were having trouble securing funds in foreign currencies and that the government would offer loans from its reserves.

When markets resumed trading, the results were ugly. Israel was down 7% at one point, as was Russia. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong and the mainland Shanghai index experienced crash level drops of 5.0% and 5.4% respectively. Indonesia was the worst hit market with a 10% drop. Australia, India, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand were hard hit as well. The Nikkei in Japan was in slightly better shape than China, falling only 4.25% to 10,473 (well below the low of 14,000 plus bottom that it hit in 1992).

Europe, which is still trading as this is being written, followed Asia's lead. The major stock indices - the DAX in Germany, the FTSE in England, and the CAC-40 in France all fell between 4% and 5% after trading opened. Smaller countries were fairing worse with Norway down 6% and Austria down more than 8%. Oil fell to just over $90 a barrel, but gold and silver were rallying as is usually the case during financial crises. As happened last Monday morning, the precious metal rallies were taking place even though the U.S. dollar was up (the euro was down two cents against it).

As has been the case ad nauseum, central banks in Europe were pumping huge amounts of liquidity into the financial system to control the crisis. None of the previous moves have had any lasting effects, nor will this one. The next likely government action is a coordinated global interest rate cut, which we should be seeing soon. When this doesn't work, you should assume that trading bans (such as no short selling at all) will be extended and then no selling at all will be allowed because the stock markets themselves will be closed down for a day or two or even a week or more.

The U.S. markets have just opened with the Dow down almost 300 points and the Nasdaq down more than 50. It should be an interesting day.

NEXT: The New Crash Monday Phenomenon

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

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.

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