Stock Meltdown and Whipsaw: Robots Gone Wild

Today was another historic day in the markets – it was the greatest intraday plunge since 1987. This was matched by the mother of all whipsaws when the market dived over 650 points in just 15 minutes bringing the Dow loss to over 1000 points, only to surge back up over 600 points in just 8 minutes. To put it another way, the Dow moved over 1250 points in just about 23 minutes.

Dow_May_6_10

As you can see, the market literally falls off a cliff and then rapidly recovers much of the loss. That’s an incredible amount of volatility!

Here’s what it look like on the S&P 500:

SP_May_06_10

As this was going on CNBC had live video of people rioting in Greece over the govt approved austerity measures as they try to climb out of their debt problem.

Just remember as you see these countries in financial turmoil, that much of the damage was caused by them having toxic CDO assets that went worthless. This is the gift the big investment banks have given to the world….yet you still have folks trying to justify their existence instead of scaling them back.

This super-sized whipsaw most likely caused big casualties in the market today. All those who had stop loss orders placed most likely had them triggered as the market plunged. It’s never fun to get stopped out of a position, only to have the market reverse and go higher. The market got me to cough up some shares before the real dive happened – thanks heaven I pulled the plug early!

The next set of victims were day traders- the human ones. The market moved so fast that if you weren’t fast enough, you were likely to either get burned on the way down, on the way up, or from both sides. I made a few mistakes and got singed here too. I’m sure a few folks manages to capitalize and make some money if they timed it right.

The third set of victims were the robot day traders. What ever triggered this dive (they are still investigating) took everyone by surprise and the machines just exacerbated the moves as their algorithms went with the flow. I’m sure some auto trading machines fared very poorly.

The only folks who escaped that whip were the ones ignoring the market. Of course, the aren’t completely unscathed as the market still ended the day with over 3% losses.

UPDATE:

NYSE (ARCA) and NASDAQ have announced that the are canceling ALL trades that happened during the plunge/whipsaw for stocks that were more than 60% off were they were trading before the big moves. Not sure how this will be tallied in…

Apparently the latest track is that some traders fat fingered an execution and instead of executing a million trade sell, he triggered a BILLION execution instead.

No Country for Old Men…or Humans

Now there is talk about more regulations needed to control the level and timing of trading. With hyper fast trading, computers can now process and work on over 1000 bid/offers per second. There’s no way humans can compete with that on the short term. Manual trading gets safer the farther out you go in the time line as you have the longer term trends to support you.

Now everyone is getting worried again after months of “happy times are here again” complacency.

To be ahead of the game, all one can really do is stick to technical and trend analysis. Don’t base your decisions on the news or emotions, but keep them in mind in the background. The long term trends should be the primary markers to show you whether to be buying or selling.

It’s is interesting that turmoil in Greece can send sink our markets as well. It just shows you how connected we are. Don’t you find it strange though that when Greece first announced that had problems several weeks ago, the market shrugged it off and moved higher? This is why you can’t trade solely on news.

As I’ve said in ma prior post, fundamentals ALWAYS catch up to the market eventually despite the market’s willingness to ignore it for an extended time. This market is to be traded – buy and hold is high risk at this time.

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