The stock market crash alert - The Daily Reckoning
The Daily Reckoning by Bill Bonner
On This Day - 7 May 2010
The stock market crash alert A  A  A

Baltimore, Maryland


Is our 'Crash Alert' flag still flying? It is? Great.

The Dow got whacked hard yesterday. It was down a few hundred points. And then, somehow, the computer programs triggered the sell signal from hell. It lost another 500 points in just a few minutes.

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Then, the computers must have reconsidered. They went into buy mode.

All very strange...

Was it just a mistake? Something weird? Was it a genuine panic...and a phony bounce? Or a phony panic and a genuine bounce? The story last night was that the sell-off was a mistake....that someone hit the wrong button and added a zero. We don't believe it. Traders must add zeros by mistake all the time. The is the first time it triggered a 998-point drop. As for the recovery, it's suspicious too...maybe some kind of automatic reaction - perhaps from 'buy the dip' program trading, maybe from the mysterious "plunge protection" machinery of the US government.

We don't know. But what this tells us is what we've been telling you: this is a dangerous market. It is no place for widows, orphans, nuns, priests, republicans, democrats, window-washers, bungee jumpers...'s a good market for gamblers. And if you were long the VIX yesterday, you made a killing.

Everyone else got killed.

But it was fun for us. You see, you start out life full of expectations and confidence. Then, you become more cautious. Then, you become more realistic. And then, you become discouraged and hopeless. Finally, after you've given up all hope of ever making the world a better place, you become amused by it; you realize that there's no reason to change it. It's funny enough the way it is.

That's the way we felt yesterday, watching the market go wild in the afternoon.

"Hey, seem to be enjoying this," said Jules. "But you must be losing money along with everyone else."

"Maybe...but it's worth it."

We don't own US stocks. But we have some emerging market shares. They went down with everything else. And we wouldn't be surprised if they went down a lot more.


...Because China is going to blow up. It's on a 'treadmill to hell," says short-seller Jim Chanos..

...Because the US economy is not really recovering. The latest numbers show retail spending sinking again. Bankruptcies are rising. Housing and unemployment remain in the dumps...

...Because the US stock market has been in a decline - in real terms - since January 2000. This move to the downside won't really end until stocks are cheap again.

...Because there's more bad new coming from Europe too...keep reading...

*** In the news tonight (on TV) are pictures from Greece, where the police are trying to keep an upper hand against demonstrators. What are the protestors so irritated about?

They're protesting against 'austerity' measures. They say it's unfair to cut a pensioner's monthly check while paying the bankers 100% of what they were due. They've got a point. The government should cut them both. This is a drama worth watching. Partly because it is fascinating. Partly because it is a coming attraction. It won't be too long before the US is in the same position. So let's watch carefully.

The Greek government committed itself to cut one of every 5 euros out of its budget. That means it has to cut back on 'services.'

'Government services?' Practically oxymoronic... You're suspicious from the get-go.

Generally, the more services you get from the feds, the worse off you are. Prisoners in federal penitentiary, for example, can thank the government for everything, from the roof over their heads to their daily bread. Being a guest of the state is something you want to avoid.

Even when the government is providing services you actually want - such as delivering the mail - it usually does so with such clumsiness that they end up costing far more than should.

"You know," said Judge Andrew Napolitano on Saturday, "the government foreclosed on a brothel, here in the state of Nevada. Apparently, the owners didn't pay their taxes. The Mustang Ranch, it was called. It had been a profitable business. Then, after the government took it over, it started losing money. It's almost unbelievable. Only the government could lose money offering hookers and booze to truckers."

Told this story, Chris Hunter, our family office financial analyst, replied:

"This is a good story...but it's an apocryphal one...

"The feds never ran The Mustang Ranch... The IRS just auctioned it off...

"The story comes from a email rumor that started circulating in 2008..".

We watched some public employees at work in Baltimore the other day. Four guys sat in a truck, with the motor running, while one guy walked lazily over to shovel something off the sidewalk. The city could probably fire 4 out of 5 of its employees and the city would work better. But the employees would pitch a fit.

"They'd complain that the poor would freeze and starve," said a colleague. "They'd say that children wouldn't learn to read, that the library shelves would be empty, and the traffic lights wouldn't work and that murderers would walk the streets with impunity."

"How's that any different from it is now?" we wondered.

"Well, they wouldn't say 'impunity.' Public employees tend to stick to shorter words. Besides, no one walks in Baltimore. Even with impunity. It's too dangerous. You'd need to have a cop at your side. And I guess that's the problem. If they fired the policemen there wouldn't be a policeman to tell your wife and kids after you got shot and killed. Maybe they could send an email. If they knew how to use the internet..."

Baltimore...Athens...Rome - almost all over the world, the story is the same. Public employees earn too much money. They get the best pensions. They get the best health care. They work little and get paid a lot.

In America, as in the rest of the world, they tend to earn about 30% to 50% more than workers in the private sector. And come a recession they don't lose their jobs. They have powerful lobbies...and direct access to legislators. That's part of the reason the Washington, DC, area suffered much less in the downturn than other metropolitan areas in the US. The roads are still packed with shiny new cars. The restaurants seem to be as full as ever. Our area has million-dollar houses...with 2-bit politicians, lawyers and lobbyists in them.

Yes, they came to Washington to do good...and they have done very well.
Greece will default anyway


Say you want a revolution?

By Bill Bonner

"People of Europe: Rise Up," says their banner.

Greek communists are usually a reliable bastion of error and darkness. Their ideas are appalling. Their proposals are absurd. The only thing they are not wrong about is their opinion of the ruling classes - whom they regard as morons.

But this time it's different. Leftist mobs, now throwing missiles at policemen in Athens, have the high ground. They just need to work on their aim.

The latest dollop of financial grease was announced two weeks ago. At a cost of 110 billion euros, Europe will pretend to protect Greece from its creditors and the Hellenes will pretend to put their financial affairs in order. Instead, the Greek affair will slide into a larger crisis. As we explained last week, all of modern macro-finance can be understood as an attempt to push problems into the future and onto people who were not to blame for causing them. Now we see the formula at work in Europe.

Greeks borrowed money they couldn't reasonably expect to pay back. Foreign bankers - largely French and German - hoped to earn outsized yields by taking a risk on Greek debt. A just ruler would let them all collapse, and give them the boot on the way down. Instead, the knaves enjoyed their loot. And, under the terms of the bailout, the fools are supposed to get their money after all; it will be squeezed out of taxpayers all over Europe.

The plans of the ruling classes are not merely unjust. They are unworkable.
Over the next three years, Greece will add $50 billion in deficits, stabilizing the debt at 150% of GDP. It will also need to come up with $70 billion to pay off debt that matures over the next two years. That is more than the amount offered in the bailout. Which means, Greece will have to borrow more money as early as next year, probably triggering another crisis. Plus, there are the other weak sisters and spendthrift brothers in the European family. Bailing them all out could cost as much as 1 trillion euros.

But the real problem is much deeper. It is philosophical as well as mathematical. Too much debt, like too much dying, is not a transitional state. It's a final state. And once the soul has left the body, there is no point in trying to keep the husk alive. Similarly, when a debt cannot be repaid, there's no use pretending. When you cannot keep up with the interest on a debt, it is added to the principle. The debt grows, becoming evermore unmanageable. It's better to admit the error as soon as possible and start organizing the details of your financial funeral.

At present, the Greeks owe an amount about equal to 120% of GDP. Thanks to the bailout, it is scheduled to go up. The plan on the table stops the debt growth only after it has increased by another 30% of GDP.

There is the problem right there. Today, the poor Greeks stagger. What is going to happen when they have an even heavier load? The meddlers hallucinate that they'll get up, smash a plate and dance a mazurka. They even imagine that lenders - who required as much as 18% yield on 2-year notes when Zorba was still on his feet - will ask for only a fraction of that after his back has been broken.

Let us make believe that this were possible. Say, Greece is able to borrow in the future at just 8% interest. At 150% of GDP, this puts the annual cost of interest (assuming all the debt were at 8%) at about 12% of GDP. In other words, 1 out of every 8 euros of output would have to be put to the task of paying the carrying cost of accumulated debt. Greece only collects about 5% of GDP in income tax revenues - not even half of what is needed to pay the interest. It's supposed to collect another 4% in taxes. Already, as much as 30% of the Greek economy has gone 'black' to escape taxation; imagine how crowded it gets underground when taxpayers realize that every penny they pay in income tax is used to protect foreign bankers from their foolish speculations. And imagine what happens when, instead of adding 10% to GDP by borrowing, the Greeks subtract 10% to pay back the debt.

Last week, schools, airports, hospitals and other services in Greece were shut down. A riot drew blood. Fifty-one percent of the Greeks said they will not go along with the austerity program. The others will turn against it once they see how it works. They were used to having their cake and eating it too. Now, they will neither have it nor eat it.

Rise up, ye Greeks! You have nothing to lose but the chains of debt! This is what revolutions are for.

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Equitymaster do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site.

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2 Responses to "The stock market crash alert"

Sharad Kapadia

May 9, 2010


It is the standard of advisors to move with the trend like stock trading. They conceniently forget when their predictions are wrong, but emphasise when they are right. In the case of Greece, it was evident and nobody took care to stop the debt and deficits crossing their GDP.
It will be better for Indian administrators, government ministers to contain debt, privatising the psus and then distribute the funds to salaried government servants, farmers etc. who have borrowed.
Inefficient government servants are in India too. How to eliminate them on economic grounds rather than humanitarian grounds? Is there any solution with the Social Economists? Perhaps, the revolution and blood shed will be preponed rather than postponed. It is like tomorrow's death averted today. But everyone knows that this game has only one end: Point of No Return.
We citizens are helpless, meek spectators. Nothing more. Where is the Saviour?



May 8, 2010

On one hand you had predicted that stock market will rise and the index should touch 27000 so now this crash alert - a bit too late as the crash has already occurred. How about the American Debt and its relation to their GDP - isn't that equally alarming?

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