As seen by the chart, it's been another rockin' session, with lots of bleak assessments finding their way onto financial Web sites (think of all the extra clicks when the word "PANIC" is used in headlines). Consider this passage in the NY Post under the headline "Doomsday Dow":
"It's a disaster, to be frank," said one fund chief. "Odds are getting very high for a massive event this summer. There are red flags everywhere you look." Several hedge fund executives said Europe's debt crisis, which is eroding the euro, was just one of many danger zones threatening to drag down the US outlook.
However today winds up, it's a pretty good bet that stocks will keep falling - and for reasons that have relatively little to do with the fundamental strengths of their companies. WSJ columnist Evan Newmark puts it this way:
So, why are the markets freaking out? Pick any reason you want - the Greek debt crisis, the German short-selling ban, the fall of the euro, Chinese monetary tightening, the U.S. budget deficits, a hidden Lehman Part II, the coming synchronized global slowdown - it doesn't matter. With markets dominated by supercomputers and traders, a nervous market is an especially vulnerable market. It takes milliseconds to go from a messy street protest in Athens to a late day margin call on Wall Street.
But before socking more greenbacks under the mattress, it might be worth knowing that nearly 80 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 index beat profit expectations in the first quarter. And as Barron's pointed out, many of those S&P companies are swimming in cash. "By now," writes Newmark, "Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Apple and Intel combined have enough cash on their balance sheets to finance the Eurozone's entire $105 billion Greek bailout."
For weeks, I've been trying to find a coherent argument on how the Greek debt disaster - as well as the potential disasters elsewhere in Europe - will spread across the Atlantic in any substantive way. I'm still looking. Everybody seems worried, but it's a free-form kind of worry that's near impossible to pin down. Sorry, but rioting in Athens doesn't signify economic disaster.