It was an ugly Friday on Wall Street. It could get uglier on Monday, especially because investors, traders and fund managers have the weekend to sit and stew.
Obviously, no knows what will happen when trading resumes. And no one really knows whether Friday will finally be the much talked about but illusive thing called capitulation -- that one cataclysmic day of selling that finally slays the market bear.
The trouble is, we're in uncharted waters right now. Yes, valuations are still high on a goodly number of stocks, but what's driving this market right now isn't a concern about stock prices -- it's a fear about the numbers company's report. It's a complete breakdown of investor trust in Corporate America and Wall Street.
Indeed, it's not just fear that's driving investors, but utter distrust. And that's something that won't disappear over a weekend, or even a few days.
Lack of Precedent
"There's nothing common about what is going on," says Harold Schroeder, a portfolio manager for Carlson Capital, a Dallas-based hedge fund. "We have lost tremendous confidence in major institutions. And without confidence you have trouble investing in stocks. We've thrown fundamental analysis out the window."
If you're looking to history as a guide for Monday's stock action, the best place to turn is to the October 1987 crash. The infamous Black Monday selloff in 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrials fell some 22% on Oct. 19, was preceded by a 5% drop in the Dow Jones the previous Friday. For the entire week before Black Monday, the blue-chip index fell just over 9%.
And there are some parallels to today's sickening market action. Friday's 390-point tumble in the Dow translates into a 4.64% drop. For the week the Dow lost 7.7% of its value.
Past Performance, Future Results
But markets don't necessarily do what history predicts. Remember how everyone said at the beginning of this year that a third-straight down year for the major market indices would be unprecedented? Well, we're certainly heading in that direction.
And the problem is that telling investors stocks are cheap is not going to get them to buy, at least not right now.
"There is a disconnect between fundamentals and the stock market and stock prices," says Timothy Ghriskey, president of Ghriskey Capital Management, a Connecticut-based hedge fund. "My gut is we're in for some stabilization on Monday, but I've been looking for a bear market rally for a while."
One thing that won't help the market stabilize are things that breed more distrust. That's what one institutional trader said he saw happen on Wall Street just before the close Friday. The trader, who didn't want to be named, said specialists -- the firms that manage trading on the
New York Stock Exchange
-- were artificially trying to prop up in a handful of stocks that were being added Friday evening to the
. He acknowledged, however, he was holding short positions in some of those stocks.
The Little Guy Factor
What ultimately will tell the tale on Monday is how ordinary investors react to Friday's selloff. If investors view Friday as just another in a long string of bad days for Wall Street, Monday could be rather uneventful; indeed, stocks could rebound as investors smell a buying opportunity. Or investors might conclude that it's finally time to throw in the towel on some of the clunkers they're still holding in their portfolios from the glory days of the bull market.
"This is clearly mostly emotion," says David Kaslow, senior portfolio manager for
Bank of America Capital Management's Nations Mid-Cap Fund
. "It will be interesting to see when they go home this weekend, do they maybe pull the trigger and sell some things. We may need another big down day. (People) want some kind of mental bottom."
And even if there is another big selloff, it won't be the end of the world. Wise investors remember that after the October 1987 crash, the market rallied and the bull market was born soon after.
Oh, and if you want to look at historical trends, this one may cheer you up. The Dow closed Oct. 19, 1987 at 1738. This Friday it closed at 8019.