Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sucker Bets

Don't be fooled by this story.
The markets didn't tank because of Kim's death. Markets never tank because of bad or even good news like the death of a tyrant. They tank on uncertainty as investors pull their money out of riskier investments and into more stable ones.
Kim's death created next to zero uncertainty. Yes, his son, the Great Successor, is an unknown quantity, but ask yourself this: could he be any worse for the world than his father? Could he be any worse for his own people than Kim Jong-Il?
Markets also tank when market makers decide it's time to manipulate the market, usually under the guise of a story like this. Remember, the smart money is much smarter than the market, barring an absolute calamity like 9-11 (and even then, the mystery of put calls on American and United airline stocks has never been fully vetted*.)
Smart money has already sussed out the obvious weaknesses in the current market and is now focusing on upcoming weaknesses. The age of instantaneous information has made the markets grossly unfair to the average investor unless they can afford access to people with the special talent and/or technology to read it.
Of course, those people are running hedge funds (altho even there, hoi polloi have infested and polluted the pure stream of profit.)
My guess? There's some bad news on the retail side of things, a guess that will be reinforced today if the markets continue a drift downward. Last Saturday was the last full Saturday ahead of the Christmas holiday, a day that traditionally sees shoppers out in droves.
They simply weren't there. While sales were up for the week, the season itself has had fits and starts in bricks-and-mortar stores. That's still a major factor in retail, but its also a major factor in commercial real estate, restaurant business,  local gasoline sales, and other businesses dependent on that damned shopping mall.
It's Tuesday. Markets don't like Tuesdays.
* I know the article says the trades were investigated and cleared, but here's the thing: why those stocks, why that day, and why haven't similar articles created similar spikes in options trading?