"A Whiff of Panic..."

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 |  Includes: DIA, QQQ, SPY
by: Barry Ritholtz

Click to enlargeThe Fed slashes rates 75 bps – and another 75 bps are implied for next week's meeting. There is a none-too-faint whiff of panic about today's actions.

What does this mean for investors? Quite a number of things – none of which are particularly good over the long term:

1) Why Cut Today? What was the motivation for today’s cut? Is it that the equity markets are not working properly? Likely not. Are rates too high? I doubt that's the reason for any of our economic woes. Then what is it – are lowered equity prices a problem?

Globally, equity markets have been in the process of “Repricing Risk” – why is the Fed disrupting that? Further, there is now a recognition that S&P500 earnings were priced way too high – especially in the event of a European and Asian slow down. That lowered “E” in the P/E adjustment is also under way.

2) TANSTAAFL: The free lunch crowd (a/k/a Long & Wrong) has been chanting for Fed cuts. However, these are not without consequences, as Inflation remains a pernicious threat.

Here’s a question: What goes to $5 a gallon first – Milk or Gasoline? How about $6?

3) How Independent is the Fed? The Fed is supposed to be an independent entity, whose mission is a) price stability (inflation) and b) maximizing employment (growth).

However, today’s action reveals an apparent third obligatory goal – protecting investors and market prices. I had no idea that back-stopping speculators and hedge funds was part of their mandate...

4) Capitulation? The Market gapped 400 points, and is now climbing higher (off 300 as I type this). My second biggest concern is that the Fed merely delayed the inevitable. This market saving cut prevented a thorough, 5% wash out. In other words, all the Fed did was prevent a healthy capitulation.

5) Pushing on a String? My biggest fear is that we close down 500 points anyway. That would be the worst of all worlds: A compromised, political Fed, working on behalf of speculators, to the detriment of ordinary taxpayers, is proven to be a paper tiger. That scenario would but the “F” in Fugly.

6) Decoupling US Equities from Global Slowdown? Other markets were down much more than the US. But that makes sense, seeing as they have been a whole lot more than the US over the past 5 years . . .

This was a shot of penicillin to a cancer patient.