Information travels faster than ever now which tends to amplify panics and crises. The natural herd tendency to sell or buy is fanned by the rapid flow of news, often in its raw state. Globally linked computerized exchanges make buying and selling more efficient and faster than ever. What is crystal clear in this time of crisis and uncertainty is that we have no control of the markets (short of shutting them down). They are bigger and more powerful than any government and they will find their equilibriums in all circumstances. Predicting or timing them is all but impossible, especially over full cycles.
With each passing day more of the dark corners of uncertainty are illuminated. A few goblins lay in wait to surprise us in the coming weeks (like pension funds and corporate real estate), but most have reared their ugly heads by now. The world’s financial system is slowly and systematically being purged of its ills, though recovery will be a long and painful process.
Falling oil prices, an improving credit picture, and a few stronger-than-expected corporate earnings put a floor under equity markets that began a free-fall in June. The S&P 500 is down only 1% compared to a decline of 9% in June. The Nasdaq is up 1.5% for July following its 9% decline in June. Global equity markets demonstrated a similar pattern.
Equity markets in the US continued the longest stretch of weekly losses for the S&P 500 Index in four years. Despite good news of a smaller trade deficit and better-than-expected jobs data, investors continued to worry about oil, credit, inflation, and consumer spending.