After a temporary, shocking 9% drop in stock prices, Thursday's market decline gnawed 3% or so off the value of the average investor's portfolio.
Here are some issues facing U.S. investors Friday:
1) Greece, on Panic Thursday, passed an austerity package that will improve its fiscal health and help its effort to obtain loans from the European Union and the IMF.
2) After yesterday's market panic, Germany is even more likely than before to approve loans to Greece.
3) Oil prices have dropped substantially.
4) Interest rates in the U.S. have dropped.
5) Data on the U.S. economy this week has been positive,
6) The Employment Report Friday will likely show increasing job creation.
1) Investors fear an eventual default by Greece, which will endanger the stability of European banks.
2) Investors fear contagion of (a) credit fears, which could raise interest costs to other European countries, putting them in more imminent danger of default, and (b) stock market fears, which could undercut stock markets worldwide.
3) The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico continues. If not capped soon, the oil slick could spread up the east coast where it would cause economic and environmental damage. It could also spread westward and interfere with shipping along the Gulf Coast, as well as the Mississippi River.
By the time the stock market opens today, we will have the benefit of having seen the Employment Report. Later in the day we may have news of the effort to cap part of the Gulf oil leak with a cofferdam. And we will see how stocks are doing in Europe, the source of recent market volatility. Investors who want to lighten their positions Friday are cautioned to avoid placing market sell orders at times of panic, lest they are filled at wildly low prices, as happened Thursday.
Given the clear evidence of economic recovery in the U.S., most investors who held stocks in 2009 are likely still in the market today. But any replay of panic selling carries reminders of 2008 and generates impulses to bail out of stocks, entirely. Investors who feel a sudden, emotional urge to sell should stop and think about their reasons for selling. After all, nobody wants to explain later, "I sold my stocks today because I panicked.' or "Greece may default and therefore I knew it was time to sell my stock in Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL)."
Disclosure: Clients and family hold long positions in AAPL.