By Sam Vaknin
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Author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"
In the wake of the global credit crunch, stock exchanges throughout the world collapsed in tandem. Why?
1. All of them - from the mighty Wall Street to the puny Macedonian Stock Exchange - have come to depend on a regular and inexorable flow of foreign portfolio capital to sustain the bull market. When this influx of hot, speculative funds ceased and foreigners began to sell their holdings, the bubbles burst everywhere at once.
2. The sharp reversal from negative real interest rates (in 2000-2001) to high positive interest rates (in 2004-7) rendered equities unattractive. It was safer and often more profitable to simply park one's money in a fixed-term deposit, money market fund, or bonds. At first, this had no effect on the bull market. But, when sentiment turned, this yield spread favored risk-free instruments over risky ones. At the crucial moment, all markets dried up: it was difficult to sell stocks or real estate; to trade in collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and other derivatives; and to obtain new loans. Banks refused to lend to each other or even to open letters of credit on behalf of perfectly solid customers. As the real economy soured (and, in Europe, devolved into a recession), corporate profit projections were slashed and stock prices reflected the gloom.
3. Over the last 3 years, market volatility has soared to record highs. Stock indices habitually went up and down 2-3% daily and, in the last 12 months, even 5-8% daily. This did not merely reflect investors' lack of certainty and fear. It was also the outcome of massive stock manipulation, a lack of education (as many small-time, uninitiated investors entered the fray), and the deleveraging of debt-financed investments.
4. Over the last 2 years, the number of new IPOs (Initial Public Offering) declined precipitously and companies began to go private, withdrawing their listed shares from the stock exchanges. This dearth on the supply side affected liquidity and hampered investors' ability to diversify their portfolios and thus reduce their risks.
5. Finally, as real economies were affected by the global financial crisis, macroeconomic indicators flashed alarm. Foreign direct investment is on the wane; remittances - which buttress numerous emerging economies - sharply declined; inflation shot up, together with the prices of commodities, foodstuffs, raw materials, minerals, and energy products, chiefly crude oil; current account and trade deficits ballooned. Emerging economies provide 75% of world economic growth. They are the true engine of globalization. Their decline is ominous. Their domestic stock exchanges are merely reflecting this potentially apocalyptic state of affairs.
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East.
He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, Global Politician, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com