Over the last year or so the markets have done well despite the rally being very narrowly focused. Consider what was working up until May. International, energy, gold, copper, industrials. The investment banks did great too as M&A activity hit record levels. What about other areas? Healthcare, technology, telecom, media, banks, retail. Not a lot of performance in those areas, even though they make up a huge portion of the U.S. market.
The result of such a narrow market was that everybody began chasing what was working and shunning everything else. The copper move from $3 to $4 a pound was probably solely due to hedge funds piling in. The moves were parabolic, especially in commodities and international stocks. Finally we have reached a point where people are getting nervous, nervous enough to reduce risk. This is leading to extreme selling in the areas that have done best. Basically, we are getting the froth out of the market.
It is this explanation, and not anything fundamentally wrong with the companies, that is causing the massive sell-off. Goldman Sachs (GS) reported a great quarter this morning. The stock is down 6 points. GS is still doing well. In fact, they advised on the Maverick Tube (MVK) buyout announced this morning. The market action has been violent, but prices are getting a little out of whack with reality at these levels, unless the world really is headed for horrible times. Not impossible, but it’s tough to make that case at this point.