Thursday, August 18, 2011

Euro Banking Fears Flare Up Again

Another busy morning. The markets are down sharply in early trading, following large selloffs in European markets. The culprit seems to be a report that a European bank went to the ECB lending window for the first time since February and needed a short-term loan at above market rates. This type of report sparks fears of credit tightening, and the markets never like that sort of thing.

On top of that, we had some negative economic reports here in the US. The Philly Fed index absolutely plunged in August to a level of -30.7 from +3.2 last month. That is quite a drop. Additionally, Morgan Stanley downgraded its outlook of the economy and said we are getting closer to recession. I still think the odds of a true recession are about 50/50 right now, and a more likely scenario is just stagnating growth.

The 10-year yield also plunged this morning, touching the 2.0% level. That's lower than it got in December 2008, just for a reference. Investors who think a 10-yr Treasury at 2.0% is a better long-term investment than a blue chip stock with a 3% dividend are going to be sadly disappointed.

We are also seeing spikes in bearish sentiment. The CBOE put/call ratio has been above the 1.0 level for 15 straight days, and the 10-day average hit its highest level since 2008. Today, the volatility index (VIX) is spiking 30% higher back above 40, although it is still below last week's highs at 48.

The dollar is higher, which is weighing on most commodities. Oil prices are down to $83.15. But the flight to safety is pushing gold prices to new highs again, today topping $1820.

Trading comment: This morning's action makes me feel better about the recent sales we have made and the hedges we added to portfolios. Getting defensive when the markets are in a downtrend preserves both financial and mental capital, and both are needed if you want to be in a position to capitalize on things when the dust eventually settles. I hope everyone is managing their risk appropriately.


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