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This Chart Keeps Me Awake at Night

May 17, 2011 12:03 AM ET
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The forest and the trees are the constant dilemma facing traders on hedge fund desks, the exchange floor, the commodities pits, or behind PC’s at home. While spending all day focusing intently on the tree in front of them with a magnifying glass, they miss the fact that a forest fire is raging all around them.

So let me step back and let me give you the 90,000 foot view of what is going on here. Check out the chart below showing the S&P 500 index for the past 14 years. This is what a lost decade looks like up close and ugly; a very broad sideways trading range. Notice that the range in the second peak is wider than the first. This is a sign of increasing volatility in global financial markets. Will the third peak be wider still? My bet is yes.

Trace the smoking gun to its source and you find the fingerprints of hedge funds and high frequency traders all over it. But there are more players in this crime scene than just them. Like a chapter from Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, everyone is guilty. You can blame two wars that are bleeding us white, the doubling of the national debt during the 2000’s, the rising leverage in our society as a whole, our country’s declining role in the world economy, and the falling American standard of living.

Until I see proof otherwise, the US is well into its second lost decade. If that is really the case, then stocks at this level are about to come crashing down to earth once again. Can Ben Bernanke work some hocus pocus and keep things levitating a little longer? I am waiting with baited breath, and keeping my finger on my mouse, ready to hit the SELL button.

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