The past week was all about superlatives. Best of all, the superlatives were all headed in the right direction.
It really didn’t matter that so much of that direction was dictated by rumor after rumor. People who were smart enough to do the stupid thing and not take profits when common sense dictated otherwise were well rewarded on paper.
With the close of trading on Friday we were hearing all kinds of statistics centering around the market’s performance this October.
By all accounts we had seen the single best performing month since 1618, or in meteorological terms “ever since records have been kept”
It was that good. You actually had to go back to when Native Americans were occupying Wall Street to have had as good a month as we’d just experienced.
Even the old adage “buy on the rumor and sell on the news” couldn’t bring the market down after the rumor of breaking an impasse over the Greek financial crisis came into being.
At least to a degree, as today the Greek Prime Minister announced that the final details of the debt agreement will be put to a referendum. So, that certainly makes it a done deal.
What could possibly go wrong?
But in October jut about everything went right, as long as your standard is that you need at least a 17% gain.
Shorts were reportedly being squeezed, talk of IPO’s was beginning to burn up the airwaves and people were clicking on the ads on this site.
That final indicator seems to be a very accurate one. People click on financial related ads when they’re feeling good about multiplying the wealth. When the market is going down no one in their right mind clicks on an “Open an E*trade Account” ad.
Even Groupon was looking rehabilitated and in some corners was being compared to LinkedIn, with regard to the reception its IPO would be expected to receive.
By some measure, those all may be sufficient to mark a near term market top. And so, today, perhaps befitting the fact that it’s Halloween, the market just gave a middle finger to those superlatives and proceeded to lose almost 2.3%.
The diagnoses for the drastic response today came quickly.
“Risk aversion is once again taking hold in markets,” said Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. strategists in a market commentary following this anti-climatic end of the month day.
That’s why those guys get the big bucks. They are able to instantly recognize once they’ve been run over by a truck.
There must have been a really sharp curve in the road, because clearly none of us ever saw that truck coming. Otherwise we would have stopped buying and buying and stopped driving stock prices higher and higher.
The really good analysts can even identify the source of the tire tracks on their back.
I assume that some of those wild horses now roaming the floors of the NYSE are left over from the original occupants who only remembered to close the gate after the horses had escaped.
But beyond that, they get the big bucks because they can also see well into the future, discounting all unforeseen obstacles.
You and I need a straight road ahead of us.
The really good ones see it coming and take decisive action before the apocalypse.
“Although encouraged by what we consider to be a good start, we suspect Europe will require other measures going forward to effectively deal with its sovereign debt problems,” said USAA Investment Management Company in another note.
The rest of us totally forgot that there’s more to the EU than just a faltering and puny Greek economy
To be so talented is such a gift and needs to be shared with the world.
That was the kind of talent that just oversaw the bankruptcy announcement on Monday of MF Global Financial.
Before overseeing the bankrupting of a one time proud company, the guy who got the big bucks oversaw its evolution from an important cog in the wheel to the wheel.
But not any kind of wheel. More of a freestyle wheel. You know the kind. The one unrestrained by shape and form and without knowledge of the road.
Besides losing billions in European bond speculation, an area where reportedly MF Global had little experience or expertise, it now also seems that some $&00 million of client money is missing.
No matter. Just another opportunity for Jon Corzine to reinvent himself, although it’s not too likely anymore that he’ll be heading to become Treasury Secretary anytime soon.
I suppose that was an anti-climactic end to that much envisioned and predicted journey.
The news of MF Global’s descent didn’t seem to hit the markets terribly hard. For the most part the market just stayed in a tight range until the final hour when it just added another 100 points to its losses.
Why did the market do that? Why did it suddenly reverse direction?
Didn’t you read the earlier paragraphs? Investors suddenly became risk adverse and learned that other countries in the EU were basket cases, as well.
The fact that Halloween also marked Jean Claude Trichet’s last day on the job may have led to some sympathy selling.
For me, I just love “down Mondays”.
Those are the days when the market heads downward sharply right after I’ve had lots of options exercised.
In this case, I had the opportunity to repurchase shares of Caterpillar, Home Depot, Mosaic and Netflix below where they had been assigned and British Petroleum and JP Morgan at prices slightly above the assigment level.
That’s like getting things you really wanted on sale.
The fact that the market didn’t reverse course mid-day, as I so smugly believed was also anti-climactic. Even worse, it led to the feeling you get when you buy something and then as soon as you walk out the door, the going out of business sign goes up.
At least for a number of the share repurchases I did get to sell call options as they were on a short lived climb upward. Caterpillar and Mosaic behaved nicely, but for the most part, the other opportunities didn’t materialize.
Sometimes it’s amazing what opportunities do materialize. Sometimes, though it’s hard to understand why they existed in the first place.
Let’s go back to the case of MF Global again.
No one hates bankruptcy more than common stock holders.
Well, generally that’s true, but there’s another class of investor that may not fare too well, either.
Those are the holders of unsecured loans.
Reportedly, JP Morgan Chase held about $1 Billion of those notes and its shares got hit very hard. All the better time to repurchase shares.
Then, word came out that all but $900 million had been packaged up and sold to investor syndicates.
You know the kind. The kind that bought CDO’s. The kind owned by people in that evil 1%, mindful of the fact that even the original occupiers of Wall Street had their own 1% folk.
That JP Morgan was involved was no surprise. That fact that it repackaged its assets and palmed off the liabilities on others whose own investing greed was exploited, isn’t too much of a surprise.
So, does any of this sound familiar yet?
But what did come as a surprise was that among the unsecured MF Global creditors was CNBC.
CNBC is on the line for about $850,000. Peanuts by any measure, but why exactly is CNBC in that kind of position?
Shades of Jon Stewart.
Did that in any way influence or steer its coverage of MF Global prior to this crisis? Once you’re in that kind of position are you any longer an independent arbiter or free to report wherever the facts take you?
I’m not certain I really need to know those answers. Whatever they are, compared to my imagination, the reality would probably end up being the most anti-climactic of all.
My guess is that it represents some payments owed to CNBC for ad time, although that seems like a relatively large accounts receivable for basic cable advertising, but then again, onMonday I was the lone voice defending Sallie Mae, as it, coincidentally enough was one of only a handful of gainers in a 270 point down day.
As far as MF Global’s tentacles go, back in the ancient Lehman bankruptcy days it was the contagion that killed us.
Now the contagion watch is on Europe with little to no concern about what other blocks may fall here in the US.
As nice as it would be to have MF Globals woes end with MF Global, the Schadenfreude that will all suffer from has to believe that lack of contagion is equally anticlimactic.
We all love a good collapse, but “been there and done that” describes the prevailing attitude.
It’s time to return to those great first 30 days of October, get some risk on and ignore reality.
That’s a climax we could all enjoy.