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(Simultaneously published at Money Daily)
March 11, 2020
In case anybody is growing weary of the recent volatility that has sent stocks soaring and diving over the past three to four weeks, prepare for more of the same. There will be no respite in daily swings of two percent, three percent or more, as yesterday proved, as stocks staged a monumental rally in the latter part of the the session, the Dow rising more than 1000 points in the final two hours.
At the end of the day, all major indices were approaching gains of five percent. Keeping with the trend of record-breaking sessions, the Dow's rise was the third largest point gain in market history. The other two occurred earlier this month. On March 2nd, the Industrials set the mark with a gain of 1,293.96 points. Tow days later, it came close to breaking that, up by 1,173.45 points.
With an eye toward the VIX - the market's preferred measure of volatility - this kind of roller coaster ride should continue until there's resolution to the downside. The VIX has recently hovered in the 40-50 range, ripping as high as 55. Normal volatility is usually measured in the teens.
The NASDAQ and S&P also experienced massive upside Tuesday afternoon, resulting in a record point gain on the NASDAQ, up 393.58 points, surpassing the record set just over a week ago, on March 2nd (+384.80). The S&P's gain of 135.67 points fell just shy of the record mark, also recorded on March 2nd, at +136.01.
In this regime of wild swings, it's probable that some traders are going to make massive profits while others fail miserably. It's all about timing and nerves. Anybody with poor timing and a thin appetite for risk is likely to be wiped out in short order. Those who relish the thrill of the hunt and have money to burn should come out ahead in the end, varying trades between long and short, at least until the market overseers ban short sales or profiting on put options.
It may not be obvious to the general public, but where this is head seems pretty clear. The coronavirus, COVID-19, has wreaked havoc on human society, thus disrupting the normal flow of business, a trend that's only just begun. Businesses are only beginning to feel the effects of breaks in the supply chain from China, and soon enough the entire planet's trade will be paralyzed by delays, outages, work stoppages, quarantines, deaths, and all the assorted maladies that accompany global pandemics, the likes of which have not presented themselves in the lifetimes of anybody alive today.
Estimates from medical experts are frightening, which is why the numbers being released by the CDC in the United States are nothing short of a bad joke. Over the past week, the CDC has "officially" recorded anywhere between 2 and 19 new cases of COVID-19 daily, this in a country with a projected population of 333,546,000.
Actual incidence of infection is orders of magnitude higher; that can be safely assumed. With the aid of the CDC, the US government has chosen to protect the economy rather than the people, a strategy doomed to fail. Without effective measures for controlling and containing the spread of the disease - as has been accomplished to a relatively high degree in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea - via testing, contact tracking, and quarantine - it will spread virtually unchecked through a population. The evidence from the epicenter in Wuhan, China is compelling in this regard. Akin to what happened there, the US approach is dangerously close to causing a widespread outbreak in any number of cities by ignoring simple precautions and putting money ahead of human health.
What would an economy look like with 200 deaths per day, hospitals overwhelmed and people forced to stay indoors and away from others for weeks at a time? We, and some European nations are about to find out. With a population spoiled by the luxuries of freedom, it's not going to be much fun watching entitled populations melt down under the imposition of travel bans, quarantines, and other draconian measures.
As for stocks, well, their pathway will be all but assured. The Dow Jones Industrials bounced off a mark of declination on Tuesday when it bottomed out at 23,690.34. It was down 19.88% from the intraday high of 29,568.57, recorded on February 12 of this year. It was about to fall into bear market territory. The day's gains may have staved off capitulation for now, but it's coming, and soon. The end of the 11-year bull market and the beginning of what could be a prolonged bear market is at hand.
At the Close, Tuesday, March 10, 2020: