I know I have mentioned before that I don't understand even the basics of the stock market and so I keep my total, accumulated wealth - $12.73 - in my checking account at Burke & Herbert bank in Alexandria, Virginia which is the functional equivalent of burying it in a coffee can under the back porch. If I had a back porch which, because I live in a town house, I don't.
A couple of weeks ago, the Dow Jones Industrial average dropped about 1,000 points in a matter of minutes. It recovered about 700 points over the next half hour but still lost 342 points for the day. It was all over the news. You might have seen it.
CNBC, which is what I watch when there are no Law & Order: SVU or NCIS reruns on USA, had a guy on as the market was recovering from that May 6 collapse, who said that he runs a hedge fund and - I'm doing this from memory so the details might be wrong but the concept is correct - said that his fund has enough computing power, and a big enough pipe to the internet, so that their machines can track up to one million potential trades … per second.
Oh, yeah. I can stand at my kitchen counter waiting for the markets to open, coffee on the counter, Wall Street Journal opened to the Markets section, number 2 pencil in hand, cell phone at the ready and compete with a guy who can track a million trades per second, right?
Yesterday the Dow lost 376 points to close at 10,068 with the losses accelerating toward the end of the trading day. CNN wrote that that loss was the Dow's
"biggest one-day point loss since February 10, 2009. Thursday's point loss was the biggest one-day percentage loss since March 5 of 2009."March 5, 2009 was when everything was still George W's fault.
The 3.6 percent drop can't be blamed on the surprisingly bad unemployment report that had been released at 8:30 yesterday morning: The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment rose last week to 471,000 from 446,000 the prior week. Economists had expected claims to fall to 439,000. The futures were down 150 points three hours before the open.
You can blame about half the loss on the news that the Senate had voted to break the filibuster on what has become known as the "finreg" bill - "finreg" being hip-hop-short-hand for Financial Regulation which is far too long in this age of A-Rod and Jay-Lo. Last night the Senate passed the bill 59-39.
The rest of the loss yesterday and a good deal of the 10.1 percent drop since April 26 (when the Dow closed at 11,205) is because of the situation in Europe about which we have spoken a number of times.
You will be hearing a great deal about "sovereign debt." That is the debt owed by a nation which is funded through selling bonds. The U.S. "sovereign debt" is a touch under $13 trillion. But, because the U.S. economy is so huge - twice the GDP of China which is second in the world - no one thinks our Treasury bonds are in any danger of default.
However, Greece, which has the 34th largest GDP in the world, has a sovereign debt which is about 113 percent of that GDP and there is a real fear that they won't be able to pay the interest on their Treasury bonds which is making it difficult to sell any new bonds which is why the EU (and the U.S.) had to dump all that money into Europe's Central Banks last week.
I said that I watch CNBC because I really don't know anything about this stuff. When I hear someone talking about "Credit Default Swaps" I do a "Default Channel Swap" to see if there's a Mythbuster's repeat on Discovery.
But, here's what I do know: The world is a very fragile place right now. Economies are teetering; Thailand is close to civil war; North and South Korea are snarling at each other; Iran is threatening Israel, the BP well is still spurting oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the Director of National Intelligence resigned last night, and the Washington Nationals have lost 6 out of their last 7 games.
I'm going to dig up that coffee can and put the $12.73 under my mattress. The way things are going, there will be an earthquake and my money will fall into the center of the earth.