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Here's how David Gaffen assessed today's Wall Street activity at Marketbeat:

This was a meltdown. The only positives come in the form of hackneyed clichés (’We’re that much closer to a bottom’) after an awful session that saw the major averages slowly twist themselves into the ground, and traders interviewed described the action in bleak terms. “This could easily be free-fall here,” says Brian Bartsch, trader at Cohen Capital. “There’s nothing good with this. We’re not getting the big volume spike. It’s been a gradual decrease all day. And even though we’re having a 300-point selloff, at these levels, it’s controlled, and that makes it scarier for everyone trading.”

When a bear market reaches its climax, you will typically see a last-ditch round of sell-offs and heavy volume. It's called capitulation. Over the last year or so, capitulation seemed to be within reach several times: Stocks would fall sharply, then rebound sharply and then start sliding again – all in the space of one or two trading sessions. But there was never the kind of upward momentum you would see in past recoveries. Why? Because there has been practically zero confidence of a breakthrough any time soon. No confidence, no reason to buy. From the NYT's Floyd Norris:

Hopes that the American economy, which led the world into recession, might lead it back out later this year have been receding. Over the weekend, the billionaire investor, Warren E. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, wrote in his company’s annual report that “the economy will be in shambles, throughout 2009, and, for that matter, probably well beyond.” As if to emphasize the problems, the Institute for Supply Management reported that companies in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States said business was getting much worse.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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