The SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY) is lower by nearly a half point, as the market cares more today about what caused three major international central banks to take action than about the actions they took. That's because central bankers are horrible at shock and awe tactics. As a result, U.S. banks bearing risk are lower today, including Citigroup (NYSE: C), J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), Morgan Stanely (NYSE: MS) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS).
The European Central Bank (ECB), Bank of England (BOE) and China's central bank each took substantial steps to support their respective economies Thursday. The ECB cut its key rate by a quarter-point, yet the Euro STOXX 50 is down 1.6% at the hour of scribbling here, while the Vanguard MSCI Europe ETF (NYSE: VGK) is down 2%. The BOE expanded its quantitative easing program, yet the FTSE 100 Index is down fractionally, while the iShares MSCI United Kingdom Index (NYSE: EWU) is down nearly a point. China surprised the market with its own rate cut announcement, yet the iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund (NYSE: FXI) is in the red. So what gives?
The day brought attention to the depths of the deterioration in Europe, as key bankers tend to support their decisions with explanatory discussion. Only in this case, the market might have been better served by some discretion. Instead, the market is hearing about how Germany, the keystone of the euro-zone economy, is showing signs of breaking. The German DAX offers good evidence of that concern, as it drifts 0.9%. Panic seems to be striking in fact, with Germany's Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB) collapsing 4.5% at this hour. Of course, Lloyd's Banking Group (NYSE: LYG) is not doing much better, down 4.1%.
Once Mario Draghi, the ECB chief, finished speaking, Italian and Spanish bond yields spiked. Spanish 10-year bond yields climbed 41 basis points, to 6.81 percent. Italian bond yields rose 21 basis points to 5.97%. Both approached levels seen just before the EU summit breakthrough. Apparently, investors had also built in hopes of a bolder ECB action, a surprise result of the summit.
Instead, investors are worried today about what insiders might know about key global economies in the U.K., E.U. and China. The seemingly coordinated action only heightened fear by raising concern about the critical economies of the world, ex-US. American banks bearing risk are down in sympathy today as well, with Citigroup off 3%, J.P. Morgan Chase off 3.6%, Morgan Stanley down 2.7% and Goldman Sachs sliding 2.2%.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.