Thinking About Explanations

by Fred Cederholm
Last week saw the largest single day drop of equity valuations in a matter of a little over an hour. Were the market makers (aka “the Plunge Protection Team”) asleep at the switch? The exchanges went into free fall. Things happened too fast, but they still happened.

I’ve been thinking about explanations. Actually I’ve been thinking about tall tales, pensions, Greece, the EURO, the US dollar, and the markets. Last week Lucy had a lot of “splaining” to do. We were watching the Greeks rioting, the gulf oil slicks floating towards our coast, and the stock markets tanking. Our world was literally coming apart at the seams. Not to worry, Der Spinmeisters went into overdrive to “splain” things away by demonstrating their so called knowledge of the situations, tell what they were going to do to fix things, and more importantly, to show that “they” were still in control. Tall tales were the order of the day. Hopefully the general public would NOT do any real TH*NK*NG and the fast talking elixir salesmen would once again prevail thus buying some more time. Suspending ones’ misbelief to enjoy a novel, science fiction, a TV show, or a movie is one thing; to buy into governmental fabrications, financial sector misinformation, and the media coverage (as in cover up, or obfuscate, the truth) is quite another.

You see common sense and rational TH*NK*NG about what the governments, the financial sector, and media are spewing out to the masses would show the explanations for the “hooey” they actually are. Most of the public around the globe is concerned about the here and now. Their concerns are for food and shelter, raising their families, keeping working, paying their bills, and looking forward to an uneventful (and enjoyable) retirement. To insure the latter (which is hopefully off sometime into the future), the American public looks to Social Security, pensions, IRAs, 401Ks, and savings to cover them on this front. Recent revelations depict a very sick system. This makes us all very edgy.

The big companies and the governmental units (Federal, state and local --- which combined are the hands down largest employers) have under funded their pension obligations. We all know this. Will they be able to follow through on their promises? Add to that point the fact that private holdings of stocks, bonds, CDs, and savings accounts make up another huge chunk of the pension mix; bring to light why it is so unfathomable for our banking and financial system of equity markets to tank. Last week saw the largest single day drop of equity valuations in a matter of a little over an hour. Were the market makers (aka “the Plunge Protection Team”) asleep at the switch? The exchanges went into free fall. Things happened too fast, but they still happened. Explanations were critical, but how could the powers that be say the markets were overvalued, the companies were not as strong/ profitable, and that the hyped fantasy that the depression/ recession was over was false? Well, they couldn’t. You cover and perpetuate one set of lies with another and bigger set of falsehoods --- and the game goes on!

The problems in Greece (and Portugal and Spain and Italy and Ireland and the UK) are now coming out into the open. Greece with its riots in the street is leading the way! Each and all of these UC members have been spending well more than they took in, or could even (or rather should) borrow. The day of reckoning is at hand, but those using EUROs as their currency can’t just print more money to cover their obligations. They must receive a bailout, or go into default. If any one or more of these goes under it WOULD bring down the EURO and the European Union. The US dollar and the Pound are still acceptable as reserve currencies so the printing money option is still working for them - for now. The EURO as a viable alternative to either of them has been dashed on the rocks and has been set back at least a decade in the broader scheme of things.

It would be to the US advantage in the short run if the EURO disintegrated and the EU actually broke up! The troubles in Greece and the precarious nature of the EURO would make US dollar and US dollar denominated investments a better bet on the planet as a whole. If anything... Greece and the troubles across the pond should have caused the market to erroneously rise last week --- not go down! After the initial “blame it on the Greeks and the need for a European bail out scenario” fell apart on closer analysis and TH*NK*NG, Der Spinmeisters here had to look elsewhere to point the finger. US entities hold less than 5% of the Greek debt, so our exposure there is highly limited. We already have far more of our own debt here to really even give the Greek mess a first, much less a second thought.

The next lame attempt at explanation for the precipitous drop in our equity markets was that ONE trader accidentally typed in a sell order for a BILLION shares instead of a MILLION. DUH!!! Are there no programmed checks, or supervisory approvals, required by the Wall Street super duper protection systems for such a large (make that HUGE) trade? Nice try...but NO, I’m not buying that one either!

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2009 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at

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This story was published on May 10, 2010.