It was ugly out there today, real ugly, like a Lady Gaga- Alan Greenspan love child with a bad case of facial neurofibromatosis. Investors are worried that China is slowing down (they are), that Europe won't be able to roll their debt (eventually they won't), and that US consumer spend will shrivel up like Khagendra Thapa Magar's muchkin in a cold shower (it will). Leading the the market down was a sell off in China after the dynamically named research group The Conference Board (which apparently researches everything but how to market a business) said they had recalculated the leading economic index for China to show a 0.3% gain in April which is much lower than the 1.7% gain they reported two weeks ago and they blamed it on a calculation error (no really they did, but Money McBags doesn't believe that for a second because aren't asians supposed to be the good ones at math? Oh right, The Conference Board isn't asian). Anyway, with the people calculating the economic data unable to actually calculate it properly, we are once again left guessing at what is really going on and all we have to go by is what we see and that is a lot of closed retail stores, packed job fairs, and blurry objects as our health care ran out and we can't afford new glasses. As China is the engine that is fueling the global recovery (the lobster in the bisque, the plutonium in the flux capacitor, or the extra F in the MFF, if you will) any slow down in their economy will certainly put a damper on economic growth and thus reduce all of us to subsisting off of Ramen Noodles and our tears of despair. Also, with Spain having to roll over debt on Thursday, the same day the whole European banking sector will have their one year 442B Euro line of credit from the ECB expire, Europe is jitterier than Michael J. Fox going through the DTs. Thursday could be a momentous day in the market as Spanish banks are hinting that the ECB's line of credit is crucial to their viability so we may see a financial crash so bad one would think Ted Kennedy were driving it over a bridge.
Unfortunately, US macro news wasn't any better with consumers only confident that the economy sucks. The Conference Board (the research group who miscalculated China's leading indicators, so take the following with a grain of salt, though if you're feeling really adventurous, take it with several grains of salt firmly planted around the rim of a shot glass containing tequila) reported the US consumer confidence index fell to 52.9 from 62.7, a number which was also downwardly revised (likely due to a goal seek input error in Excel). Basically every metric measured by The Conference Board fell except for belief that things will get worse, belief that there will be fewer jobs, and belief that Keynesian economics is a farce. Not helping matters was that the Case-Shiller index posted only a .8% gain despite government tax credits still juicing the system like a Lance Armstrong steroid cocktail. Sure a gain is better than a loss, but the gain should have been higher even with 18 out of 20 cities showing increases. Of course with that tax credit now expiring, there is certain to be a pull back next month so large that it will make even Kenny Rogers shudder. If there were ever going to be a double dip recession, now is the time, so sit back and cross your fingers that the government will re-stimulate the economy and push the second dip off for another few years when you'll be too old to care.
In stock news, shares of C were halted at one point today because the market couldn't believe the company hasn't hit zero yet. The stock traded down 17% thanks to what is being reported as a fat finger trading error (and again, we call that the Portia Di Rossi because someone who looks like this must have some hella fat fingers to keep the lovely Ms. Di Rossi satisfied) though it was likely just the run of the mill high frequency trading stock manipulation. New circuit breakers were put to work for the second day in a row and trading in C stock was shut down for five minutes until it had time to cool down and think about what it had done before re-opening down only 5%. In other news Barnes and Noble dropped 20% as with the advent of TV, the internet, and the NSFW spankwire.com people no longer read books. The CEO announced the company will be investing $140MM in to their digital book business and their digital book reader, the absurdly named NOOKie (and if Money McBags were running BKS the first thing he would do would be to change the name of the NOOK to something more catchy like "iPhone" or more honest like the "not going to be around for long" since the market is going to be dominated by the Kindle and iPad). Anyway, 2011 guidance was for break even to a $.40 loss per share due to falling margins and investment, and as analysts had guessed the company would be profitable, shares sank faster than General McChrystal's chance at winning a Medal of Honor this year. Finally Verizon was break even in a down market as they are rumored to be signing a deal with Apple and Tesla Motors (TSLA) shot up 40% on its first day of trading despite never earnings a profit, having $300MM of lifetime losses, not forecasting a profit until 2012, and having their business revolve around selling an electric car when we all know eletric cars only exist in the land of make believe where it rains gumdrops and every Friday is free blumpkin day at the local Rick's Cabaret.
In small cap news everything was down except for ZAGG which Money McBags exhaustively broke down for all of you earlier today (so check it out, really). A name Money McBags told you about last week, KIRK, continues to get hammered but it is getting to the point where one may have to actually step in, put some gloves on, and catch the falling knife as it's now at 8x Money McBags' high end earnings estimates with ~20% of its market cap in cash. Also ISLE was down 6% after Money McBags said yesterday it would make a good short trade. Of course Money McBags isn't bragging about that call because everything went down faster than a call girl working for tips only, so any short call from yesterday looks prescient. There may be a short term rally tomorrow but Money McBags is warier of this market than Thomas Hoenig is wary of keeping rates too low for too long, so he is staying on the sidelines for now.
And don't forget WGP is on Facebook, even though it goes against everything in which Money McBags believes.