Unless the Federal Reserve is purposely attempting to spread panic on Wall Street, the decisions that the Fed just made don’t make any sense at all. Back on March 3rd, the Federal Reserve announced an unscheduled emergency interest rate cut for the very first time since 2008. Wall Street immediately interpreted that as a “panic move” and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the session down 785 points. So Fed officials had to know what was going to happen once they announced an even bigger unscheduled emergency interest rate cut on Sunday. Predictably, stock futures hit “limit down” very rapidly, and now investors are bracing for a week of tremendous carnage.
But this didn’t have to happen. Yes, we witnessed three of the worst trading days in U.S. stock market history last week, but on Friday the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1,985 points. It was an absolutely epic rally, and if the Fed had not caused so much panic there may have been a good chance that the rally could have continued into next week.
In other words, U.S. stocks just had one of their best days ever, and there didn’t appear to be a need for any “emergency intervention” by the Fed.
If the Federal Reserve had just waited a couple of days until their normally monthly meeting, and if the Fed had just cut rates a quarter point, that would have likely been greeted by the markets with warm enthusiasm.
But instead, Fed officials decided to load up their bazooka and go for broke on Sunday. In addition to using up all of their “interest rate ammunition” in one epic volley, the Fed also officially restarted quantitative easing…
The Federal Reserve, saying “the coronavirus outbreak has harmed communities and disrupted economic activity in many countries, including the United States,” cut interest rates to essentially zero on Sunday and launched a massive $700 billion quantitative easing program to shelter the economy from the effects of the virus.
The new fed funds rate, used as a benchmark both for short-term lending for financial institutions and as a peg to many consume rates, will now be targeted at 0%-0.25% down from a target range of 1% to 1.25%.
These moves have “panic” written all over them, and investors immediately responded accordingly…
Stock market futures hit “limit down” levels of 5% lower, a move made by the CME futures exchange to reduce panic in markets. No prices can trade below that threshold, only at higher prices than that down 5% limit.
Dow Jones Industrial average futures were off by more than 1,000 points, triggering the limit down level. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures were also at their downside limits.
As I mentioned above, Fed officials saw what happened immediately after their March 3rd emergency rate cut, and so this sort of response by the markets should have been foreseeable.
As Wolf Richter has noted, these latest moves by the Fed were “the opposite of being confidence inspiring”…
The whole Sunday afternoon maneuver, on top of the mega shock-and-awe maneuvers Thursday and Friday reek of sheer and outright panic – and they’re the opposite of being confidence inspiring. That stock futures plunged after the Fed had effectively put its biggest tools to work shows how obvious this panic is.
So then why did the Fed pull the trigger if this was going to be the result?
It would seem that there are two obvious conclusions. Either Fed officials are completely and utterly incompetent, or they were purposely trying to crash the stock market.
And now that the Federal Reserve is completely out of interest rate ammunition to fight any future economic downturn, the only weapon they have left is “helicopter money”.
As economic activity comes to a grinding standstill due to fear of the coronavirus, it appears to be inevitable that we will see tremendous inflation as the Fed floods the system with money.
In other words, there is going to be a whole lot more money chasing a lot fewer goods and services in the months to come.
Meanwhile, we are already starting to see a run on U.S. banks. On Thursday, so many people were taking money out of a Bank of America branch in midtown Manhattan that it actually ran out of cash…
As the stock market was having its worst day in 30 years on Thursday, customers at a Bank of America branch in Midtown Manhattan, the financial heart of New York, were lining up to take cash out of their accounts — sometimes tens of thousands of dollars at a time.
So many people sought huge sums that the bank branch, at 52nd Street and Park Avenue, temporarily ran out of $100 bills to fulfill large withdrawals, according to three people familiar with the branch’s operations. The shortage hit after a rash of requests for as much as $50,000, said two people who witnessed the rush.
And according to Zero Hedge, wealthy individuals in the Hamptons are doing the same thing…
As the ultra rich Snake Plisken out of the soon-to-be quarantined Manhattan – where at least one bank has are already run out of $100 bills – to fortify themselves against the viral zombie peasant hordes in their impregnable castles in the Hamptons, one thing they’re looking to hoard is cash, which has caused some substantial pressure on financial institutions in the area, according to Bloomberg. At least one New Yorker had his $30,000 cash withdrawal request denied at a Chase bank after being told the limit was $10,000. Meanwhile, bank employees said they were waiting on a “shipment of cash” to fulfill other requests that have been made exceeding the $10,000 amount.
Other branches in the area were unable to help in fulfilling the request, with the East Hampton branch reportedly telling the Southampton branch that it had “two massive withdrawal orders” of its own that it was trying to deal with.
Hopefully we won’t see similar scenes all over the country in the weeks ahead.
But without a doubt, panic continues to spread all over the globe. The following examples come from CNN…
A woman at an Australian supermarket allegedly pulls a knife on a man in a confrontation over toilet paper. A Singaporean student of Chinese ethnicity is beaten up on the streets of London and left with a fractured face. Protesters on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion welcome cruise passengers by hurling abuse and rocks at them.
The coronavirus risks bringing out the worst in humanity.
Yes, this virus is definitely bringing out the worst in humanity.
Here in the United States, two “panic shoppers” became so enraged with one another that they began hitting each other with broken wine bottles…
A brawl erupted in a Georgia Sam’s Club packed with shoppers during which two feuding men slashed each other with broken wine bottles.
A second incident in a Costco in Brooklyn saw an employee pleading with two women to calm down after a screaming match began when carts collided in the mobbed store.
This is why it was so important to get prepared in advance.
For years I have been mocked for telling my readers to “get prepared”, but now those that did are going to be very thankful for the things that they have stored up.
If you are not prepared, you can go brave the giant crowds storming the stores if you wish, but at this point the big stores are going to be one of the very best places in the entire country to catch the virus.
I don’t know about you, but I am not eager to experience the “blinding pain” that survivors of COVID-19 have told us about. So I would highly recommend avoiding big stores and other major public gathering places as much as possible.
We should be planning for a worst-case pandemic and using the kind of intensity of implementation which served us so well in World War II. Getting enough ventilators, masks, intensive care units, treatment medications and aggressive community-wide testing are the minimum steps to saving lives and stopping the pandemic.
The Pence-led Coronavirus Task Force has begun to pull things together, but it should have a planning group that creates a worst-case projection and then devises the steps necessary to smother the pandemic and minimize its impact.
And this is also a time for prayer. In fact, President Trump designated Sunday as a “National Day of Prayer”…
President Donald Trump on Saturday declared Sunday, March 15, a “National Day of Prayer for All Americans Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and for our National Response Efforts.”
“I urge Americans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers for all those affected, including people who have suffered harm or lost loved ones,” Trump said in his statement announcing the day of prayer.
Let us all hope that this pandemic passes as quickly as possible.
But the CDC just issued new guidelines that recommend that gatherings of 50 people or more not be held for the next eight weeks.
Of course most decision makers in this country will follow those guidelines, and so that means that our lives will not be getting back to normal for at least the next two months.
And it could be a whole lot longer than that.
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