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Does The 'Hack Crash' Tell Us Anything?

Daily State of the Markets
Thursday, April 25, 2013

Good Morning. It is always interesting to see what captures people's opinion in this game. For example, Tuesday's "hack job" of AP's Twitter account produced a mini flash-crash in which the DJIA fell 145 points in about 120 seconds and then recovered 134 points in the ensuing 3 minutes. So, in just 300 seconds, the DJIA traveled 279 points. But since the source of the dance to the downside was identified instantly and then the event was reversed almost as quickly as it came, I really didn't give it much thought. The bottom line is this type stuff happens all the time (albeit on a smaller scale) to individual stocks. However, since this time the computers hit the DJIA and the emotions from the Boston Marathon bombings were still raw, the public can't seem to get enough of this story.

While most professionals in the game understand that there are lots and lots of algos combing through the news wires looking for combinations of words that will trigger buy and sell orders, apparently the public does not. It's actually fun to see these programs in action at times, as the computers grab words that don't necessarily go together correctly. But since the computers can read a wee bit faster than we humans can and they do seem to get "the story" right most of the time, this is a game that probably isn't going to go away just because somebody sent out a false tweet.

One of my colleagues (Ted Lundgren of Hg Capital Advisors, a firm that, by the way, runs some pretty nifty investment strategies) called me yesterday and asked me if I thought the "mini crash" meant anything from a market environment perspective. Ted's contention was that this was an event that could have, or perhaps even should have, shaken the confidence of investors. He suggested that while not on the same scale, the Flash Crash of May 6, 2010 might be used as a guide here. "If you look at the Flash Crash," he opined, "You'll see that it was part of a larger move lower. But on Tuesday, the market didn't miss a beat. So, doesn't that tell us something?"

I admitted that I hadn't considered Tuesday's event from that perspective as market participants largely ignored the move. But Ted's contention was interesting because of the fact that CNBC spent much of the day Wednesday talking about what I'm calling the "hack crash." And in terms of the media coverage, it was as if this type of thing had never happened before.

But I digress (yes, there is indeed a reason that I often refer to this column as a "meandering" morning market missive). The key point that was made to me was that the "hack crash" occurred and nobody really seemed to care (other than the financial news networks, that is). I was reminded that by the end of the day Tuesday, the market had moved to the high of the day and there was a fair amount of talk making the rounds about the potential for new highs. In other words, despite the deep-dive that had occurred earlier in the day, fear was most definitely not in the air.

I countered with the argument that there is a large number of trend-following algos these days pushing the indices around and that computers don't scare easily. After all, the trend is indeed an algo's best friend when the market is moving in one direction or the other for any length of time. But I will admit that my friend had a point.

You see, there wasn't any panic to speak of in the market on either Tuesday or Wednesday. People weren't fearful that stocks would fall out of bed again at any moment. And while the bears could be heard pushing their agenda (this day was no different from any other day in that regard), the concept of the market falling apart at the seams did not seem to dominate anyone's conversation. No, it appeared that the "hack crash" was all in a day's work and that the bulls were continuing to go about their business.

Speaking of the bull business, it looks like the word "accumulation" is definitely to be included in the description. Remember, despite all the worries about earnings, Europe, the rising wedgie-something-or-other chart formations, the defensive leadership, and the weak economic data, it does appear that stocks are still being accumulated here in the good ol' USofA. As such, it looks like it will take more than a "hack job" to take this market down. But, then again, today is another day, so stay tuned!

Publishing Note: My travel schedule is about to get pretty nutty. First, I am first attending NAAIM's annual conference with meetings starting on Friday. Then I will be traveling in Europe with my wife for two weeks. And finally, the day after we return, I set off to fetch my youngest from college. So, I will be schedule-challenged for much of the next three and one-half weeks and will publish morning commentaries as time permits. However, rest assured that since vacation isn't a word in my vocabulary, I will be monitoring the markets on a daily basis.

Looking for a disciplined approach to managing stock market risk on a daily basis? Check Out My "Daily Decision" System. Forget the fast money and the latest, greatest option trade. What investors need is a strategy to keep them "in" the stock market during bull markets and on the sidelines (or short) during bear markets.

Turning to This Morning...

The majority of overseas markets sport green numbers this morning with the exceptions of Spain and Shanghai. The fact that the UK avoided a triple dip recession in Q1, a rebound in gold, and a steady flow of earnings appears to be keeping the mood upbeat on Wall Street prior to the open. Futures currently point to a gain of about 50 Dow points at the open.

Pre-Game Indicators

Here are the Pre-Market indicators we review each morning before the opening bell...

Major Foreign Markets:
- Shanghai: -0.87%
- Hong Kong: +0.98%
- Japan: +0.60%
- France: +0.18%
- Germany: +0.64%
- Italy: +0.49%
- Spain: -0.73%
- London: +0.10%

Crude Oil Futures: +$0.28 to $91.71

Gold: +$23.10 to $1446.80

Dollar: higher against the yen, lower vs. euro and pound

10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading at 1.712%

Stock Futures Ahead of Open in U.S. (relative to fair value):
- S&P 500: +6.81
- Dow Jones Industrial Average: +51
- NASDAQ Composite: +9.68

Thought For The Day...

Challenge yourself to think positive ALL day today!

Positions in stocks mentioned: none

Follow Me on Twitter: @StateDave

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