Terrified US investors bailed out of dotcom and other New Economy issues en masse last week to yield the NASDAQ's largest historical point loss and a severe contraction on the Dow.
By week's end brokers began making an inevitable move towards margin calls, thereby twisting the knife and sending all but the bottom feeders into a selling frenzy, and so sapping the unknown precious bodily fluids upon which virtual companies with virtual assets are nourished. Late in the week, bargain hunters began gathering up the desiccated husks, giving them a quick boost and then selling for penny-ante profits, further eroding market confidence. But on Friday -- the 88th anniversary of the Titanic's plunge to frigid depths, we note -- as the dreaded margin calls came in to force the injured to sell again, even the most opportunistic parasites sat dejected on the sidelines, unwilling to buy as shares in all sectors suffered from the momentum of cowardice.
The NASDAQ slid 258 on Monday, 132 on Tuesday, 286 on Wednesday, 92 on Thursday, and 355 on Friday for a 25 percent loss on the week. The Dow tanked as well, finishing down 804 for its worst historical weekly point loss. European markets have shown some resilience today in anticipation of Black Monday on Wall street, but Asia was not so lucky. The Nikkei Stock Average fell 1,426.04 to 19,008.64 for a loss of seven percent. Hong Kong and Singapore fell by more than eight percent, and South Korea a whopping eleven-plus percent on huge volumes. Worse will follow if Wall Street's losses resume later in the week, as they are expected to do, with a punishing round of margin calls in the offing.
Many factors brought on the selling frenzy: US Justice Department triumphalism in the Microsoft case generated fears of increased government intervention in matters virtual and financial; bad news about the core rate of inflation, which rose faster than it had in five months, prompted fears of an impending an larger-than-expected interest rate hike; and a Friday speech by US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warning that banks should gird themselves for a public show of solvency rattled the already twitchy herd. But the most vicious market dynamic has tormented margin investors, many of whom were forced to sell against their will and better judgment to keep up with the calls that started coming in on Friday. Of course it's too late to sell; in this market, selling can only result in unrecoverable losses.
Those unwise enough to buy on margin and unfortunate enough to get calls this week will also be forced to make the sacrifice, and at the worst possible moment.
In previous coverage The Register dared to question financial demigod Alan Greenspan's judgment that margin buying was in no way a threat to share values. Normally, we love to say we told you so; but our personal portfolio and sole ticket to Bourgeois respectability tanked so badly last week that, sadly, we're in no mood to perform our smug little dance of self-justification. ®
Related Coverage NASDAQ, Dow show ugly trend towards speculation MS ruling knocks stuffing out of Wall Street Tales from the Bubble Economy Greenspan flinches, NYSE tanks Wall Street runs hot on interest-rate fears Tech stocks take a battering MS, Intel to drive Dow Jones stock index Media Y2k frenzy may trash economy - Greenspan Soft landing ahead for AOL when Web stock bubble bursts Microsoft share price "surprisingly high" warns Gates Web stock boom will end tears