How To Tell A Market Commentator Doesn’t Understand Markets or Finance or What They’re Talking About

It’s Monday, Aug 9.  The stock markets are declining significantly, although anybody who says it’s panic doesn’t remember 2008.  Anyway, lots of market commentators, you know the types on cable TV news networks, are all claiming the decline is due to the S&P downgrade.  They’re wrong. Completely wrong as I pointed out already. But just to reinforce my point, here’s Paul Krugman just minutes ago:

Carnage in stock markets as I write — and all of the headlines I see attribute it to S&P’s downgrade.

They really are trying to make my head explode, aren’t they?

Once again: S&P declared that US debt is no longer a safe investment; yet investors are piling into US debt, not out of it, driving the 10-year interest ratebelow 2.4%. This amounts to a massive market rejection of S&P’s concerns.

The “signature” of debt concerns should be stock and bond prices both falling; what we actually see is those prices moving in opposite directions. And that’s normally the signature of concerns about a weak economy and deflation risk (see Japan, decline of).

What triggered economy fears? To some extent I think this is a Wile E. Coyote moment, with investors suddenly noticing just how weak the fundamentals are. Also, the mess in Europe.

And maybe, maybe there is an S&P story — but not the one you think. Arguably, that downgrade will bully policy makers into even more deflationary, contractionary policies than they would have undertaken otherwise, which has the perverse effect of making US debt more attractive, since the alternatives are worse.

But all the Very Serious People, having totally misdiagnosed our problems so far, will probably double down on that wrong diagnosis as markets fall.

Oh by the way.  The 10 year bond rate is now down to 2.38% from 2.6% on Friday.  The  3 month and 6 month rates are less than 0.01% – essentially zero interest rate.

Europe Update: Strikes in Spain, UK Austerity, ECB Bond Purchases

European leaders (read banker-types) insist on austerity (read lower real wages and services for middle and lower classes) in the midst of 10% and rising unemployment.  Dangerous mix.  The one good sign is that the ECB is actually buying govt bonds, including Greek bonds, despite it’s public hard-line position.  From Calculated Risk:

Europe Update: Strikes in Spain, UK Austerity, ECB Bond Purchases

Form the NY Times: Spain Hit by Strike Over Austerity Measures

Spanish public workers went on strike on Tuesday against a cut in their wages in what could be the first of several union-led protests against the government’s latest austerity measures.

From The Times: Osborne’s four-year austerity programme

George Osborne braced the country for cuts in government spending of up to 20 per cent as he laid the ground for an austerity programme to last the whole parliament.

From Der Spiegel (a week ago): ECB Buying Up Greek Bonds (ht Chris)

Bonds worth about €3 billion are now being purchased on every trading day, with €2 billion of the bonds coming from Athens.

From Bloomberg: Greek Default Seen by Almost 75% in Poll Doubtful About Trichet

Global investors have little confidence in Europe’s efforts to contain its debt crisis or in European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, with 73 percent calling a default by Greece likely.

From the NY Times: E.U. Finance Ministers Agree on Tighter Oversight

Despite continuing tensions over economic policy, European Union finance ministers agreed Tuesday on far-reaching steps to tighten oversight of national governments’ budgets and crack down on falsification of economic data, in a concerted effort to avert a further loss of confidence in the euro.