Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Stocks surge from intraday lows

That's the positive take anyway. Bloomberg reports a fuller picture of Monday's markets.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index retreated 3.9 percent, extending the worst weekly slump since 2001. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 370 points, led by plunges in Alcoa Inc., Boeing Co. and Walt Disney Co. Both gauges pared declines of more than 7.7 percent in the final hour as traders increased bets on a Federal Reserve interest rate cut. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index headed for the biggest loss in its 21-year history and exchanges in Russia and Brazil halted trading. Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index had its steepest decline since 1987...

Two-year Treasury yields plunged 0.14 percentage point to 1.45 percent as investors sought the relative safety of government bonds...

The euro tumbled as bank failures in the region increased, dipping 5.4 percent to 137.22 yen, the weakest since September 2005. All the world's most-traded currencies declined against the yen, which strengthened 15 percent against the Australian dollar...
Money market rates climbed as investors lost confidence in financial markets. The interest rate that banks charge each other for overnight loans in dollars jumped to 2.37 percent from 2 percent, the British Bankers' Association said.

Yields on overnight U.S. commercial paper jumped 0.94 percentage point to 3.68 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That's the highest since Sept. 30, the day after the U.S. House of Representatives first rejected the bank bailout.

Investors are growing increasingly concerned that higher borrowing costs will worsen a slowdown in world economies, reducing demand for metals and fuel. The Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 commodities slipped 5.2 percent.

The primary trigger for the latest bout of turmoil was the increasing realisation of the fragility of the banking system in Europe, not just in the US. From Bloomberg:

European governments from Brussels to Copenhagen to Berlin rushed to shore up their faltering banks as the credit crunch worsened in Europe.

BNP Paribas SA agreed to buy Fortis's units in Belgium and Luxembourg for 14.5 billion euros ($19.8 billion) after a government rescue failed, while the German state and financial institutions put together a 50 billion-euro rescue package for Hypo Real Estate Holding AG. Denmark and Germany said they will guarantee all their countries' bank deposits.

But there was also action in the US from the Fed. Bloomberg reports:

The Federal Reserve will double its auctions of cash to banks to as much as $900 billion and is considering further steps to unfreeze short-term lending markets as the credit crunch deepens...

Implementing part of last week's emergency legislation to shore up the financial industry, the Fed said today it will begin paying interest on the cash reserves banks hold at the central bank. The step should give Fed officials greater power to inject cash into banks without interfering with their benchmark interest rate, which stands at 2 percent.

What many are looking for, however, is easing of monetary policy. India set the ball rolling for this week. From Bloomberg:

India allowed banks to set aside smaller reserves for the first time in five years to boost cash in the financial system and calm markets after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and the sale of Merrill Lynch & Co.

The Reserve Bank of India reduced its so-called cash reserve ratio to 8.5 percent from 9 percent effective Oct. 11, according to a statement in Mumbai. The cut will add 200 billion rupees ($4.2 billion) to the financial system, the bank said.

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