Markets opened October with almost all assets declining everywhere. The S&P 500 entered bear territory on Tuesday. Few assets other than treasuries and the U.S. dollar are doing well, as is typical during a credit crisis.
The big talk on Monday, the first trading day of October, was about the S&P 500 making a new closing low for the year. The intraday low was only slightly lower than the previous one in early August, so peak to trough the index was off 19.8%. The big drop on the opening on Tuesday created a 20% loss, putting the S&P 500 officially in a bear market.
The small cap Russell 2000 already entered bear territory on August 8th. The Russell had another mini-crash on Monday, dropping 5.4% on the day. That was its fourth mini-crash since August. Mini-crashes are common during credit crises, but not at other times.
The selling on Tuesday first showed up in Asia with the Hang Seng in Hong Kong losing 3.4% to close at 16,250 and South Korea's KOPSI dropping 3.6%. The ugliness then spread to Europe with the German DAX, the French CAC-40 and the UK FTSE down more than 3% during the trading day. U.S. stocks opened then opened lower with the Dow losing more than 200 points in early trading.
As usual in Europe, banks were at the epicenter of the market quake. Franco-Belgium bank Dexia was down 22% at one point. Deutsche Bank (DB) was down more than 6% in Frankfurt after announcing it would miss its profit target for the current year. American banks have not avoided the carnage affecting financial stocks elsewhere; just take a look at Bank of America (BAC) and Morgan Stanley (MS), both trading at two-year lows.
While the behavior of banking stocks makes it clear that a credit crisis is taking place, falling commodity prices clearly indicate that the global economy is turning down. Copper prices fell as low as $3.01 a pound early Tuesday. Copper sold for well over $4.00 at its high in February and dropped sharply throughout September. Oil is also indicating weakness, with WTI crude closing at $77.61 on Monday. It traded as low as the $75 range on Tuesday. Oil is heading into a period of seasonal weakness and this is likely to exaggerate any price drops. Next strong support is around $70 a barrel.
Money continues to move into safe haven treasuries. The 10-year yield was as low as 1.725 before selling began in the bond market. The U.S. dollar index traded just under 80 at its high. The euro, which moves opposite to the dollar, hit a low of 1.31.62 Tuesday. Further weakness should be expected until there is some resolution to the debt crises in the EU.
In bear markets, the bigger trend is down, but this is frequently accompanied by huge volatility. This is what has taken place since August and until there is a good reason that the trend should change, investors should expect that prices will be moving lower.
Author: "Inflation Investing - A Guide for the 2010s"
Organizer, New York Investing meetup
This posting is editorial opinion. There is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.