Saturday, August 13, 2011

Crazy Week

We've heard so much about what a volatile week this has been that I'm not going to belabor it too much. It really was historic.

One remarkable statistic I saw is that yesterday and today marked the first time since July 6 and 7 that the Dow closed higher two days in a row. Volume was huge and the point moves gigantic this week, but what was particularly unusual was how the action went from one extreme to the other. We had one big day followed by a weak day, and then back up again. Machines say up; machines say down; machines say up; etc. Stocks moved in tandem like never before (which is probably a function of the dominance of computerized trading and exchange-traded funds), rendering individual stock picking a lost art. It really didn't matter what you bought or sold -- as long as you were trading in the right direction.

Rather than look in the rear-view mirror, we need to focus on where to go from here. The number one question is whether this volatility is going to slow down. I believe it is very likely to continue, simply because we still have so many major problems without any clear solutions. The sovereign debt problem in Europe is likely to continue for a while.

The action resembles what we saw in 2008. We'd have a big bout of volatility, and when things finally seemed ready to calm down, another shoe would drop. Each new crisis scared away more market players and, eventually, the bottom fishers didn't even try.

I don't believe the situation is as dire this time, but another big spike down would not surprise me.