Everyone is wondering if there is a bottom? Markets around the world tumbled yesterday on the same fears driving our markets down. How badly will a global recession hurt corporate profits? As investors sell on earnings fears, they exacerbate the fragile stability of the credit markets – a self-perpetuating spiral. Every drop in stock prices reduces further the assets of banks and corporations, suggesting that an increasing number of them will have trouble paying their debts.

May was very unkind to investors.  The S&P 500 declined 3.1% making it the worst monthly decline since 2004.  The Dow Jones 30 fared a little better, declining by 1.6%.  The NASDAQ has been on its longest decline since 1994.  With inflation fears running high, uncertainty about how close the Fed will come to ruining the economy, high energy and commodity prices, and fears of what will happen in Iran, Iraqall piled on after the Fed’s May 10th meeting to send many to the exits.  The biggest losers were the emerging markets as investors feared that investors’ capital would leave these risky markets as interest rates rise. 

Having just been in the mountains of West Virginia I was reminded of some very interesting parallels to today’s stock market.  From the mountaintop it seems one can see forever.  The view is spectacular, the air is fresh and clear, and problems seem miles away.  But down in the valleys everything is close and problems seem omnipresent.  Travel can be treacherous on the tight sharp switchbacks.  Just yards ahead around the next curve there may be a ten-ton coal truck barreling down the hill pushing the limits of control.