Today we experienced yet another round of greater-than-usual market volatility. We empathize with your concerns. While we cannot say how long or how deep the declines will go, it may be helpful to give some insight into some of the underlying causes, look at what the impact has been on the major asset classes, and to provide some historical reference to put it into context.

Mounting problems in Libya sent oil prices over $100, natural gas trading to record highs, and equity prices reeling. The MSCI US Broad Market Index, which represents 99.5% or more of the total market capitalization of all US common stocks was down 3.9% intra-day, but closed down 2.9% for the week as of yesterday. Realization that there is enough oil supply, a number of good earnings reports and today’s news that last year’s economy (despite a downward revision) still grew the best in 5 years has stocks up .6% this morning. 

In conversations with clients, friends, and relatives this past week there seemed to be an almost universal ‘good riddance to 2010.’ But there also seemed to be hope that the now one will bring improvement. We join the hope that faith, optimism, and resilience will prevail.

President Bush was in town yesterday conducting a town-hall-styled meeting to further explain his plans for a Social Security overhaul.  His aim is to provide workers with better growth than the current system’s performance, thereby generating more income at retirement.  A further advantage is the potential to pass any remainder along to heirs.  His plan obviously faces huge hurdles as many in Congress don’t believe there is a significant problem and others feel it can be fixed with less dramatic changes.  It is the President’s hope that he can remove much of the political fire from the discussion to have an honest and open discussion of options to improve this mammoth government program.