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Ugly Opening Despite Fed

By Terry Savage on March 16, 2020

At this point, well before the market opens, it looks like an ugly start to the day –and no real reason for a rally. The futures are “locked limit down.” (The maximum that the index futures can move in one direction is 5%.) And when the actual stock market opens, it’s likely that we will quickly reach the 7% circuit breaker limit, which will halt trading for 15 minutes. And possibly trigger a second circuit-breaker at down 13%.

It’s important to realize what the Fed did for the economy, and what it can’t do for the markets. Cutting rates to zero and adding liquidity by buying $500 billion of U.S. Treasury securities, and an additional $200 billion of mortgage backed securities, will keep the financial system up and running.

But it won’t save the economy from a recession. The economy is grinding to a halt. People are losing jobs, businesses are losing everything. And the stock market looks at the future of business to price stocks. Right now, that future looks dismal. And it will remain so until we have clarity on how long this virtual lock-down must continue.

At that point, the market will be ready to look beyond current bad news, toward hopes for a recovery. But not until then. So prepare for a far longer — and lower — stock market. No need to panic over stock prices at this point. This is just the new reality.

The Fed’s action will keep the markets and banking system liquid and working. Now we must wait for Congressional action — practical moves to help those who cannot work, cannot pay rent, small businesses who cannot pay workers, healthcare for the uninsured, and actions to make sure school lunches are not wasted, but distributed to needy families. We have government stockpiles of everything from milk and butter and cheese, as well as oil! It’s time for government to get organized to help more than the financial markets.

One note: You can judge the extent of the gloom by gold prices. Ten days ago, when all this started, gold soared briefly to over $1700/ounce. Gold is a traditional refuge in times of fear. But this morning, even gold is trading lower — now down to $1473. That shows the global demand for cash and liquidity — even if you can now earn NO interest on U.S. dollars. In effect, that is “ultra-panic” behavior.

So, sit tight. As I said after 9/11 — America will survive and prosper. The only question now is how long it will take until we can see that brighter future. And that’s The Savage Truth.

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