Wild swings on Wall Street


Wild swings on Wall Street

Nick Beams

27 December 2018

In another expression of the extreme volatility on financial markets, Wall Street surged yesterday after the worst Christmas Eve fall in history. The Dow leapt by 1,086 points, a rise of almost 5 percent, the S&P 500 was up 5 percent and the NADAQ rose by 5.8 percent.

The market surge, the biggest Wednesday Dow rise in history, followed staggering falls on Monday, which saw the Dow and the S&P 500 on the edge of bear market territory, defined as a drop of 20 percent from their highs. Even with yesterday’s jump, both the Dow and the S&P are on track for their worst December since 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression.

The pre-Christmas sell-off demonstrated the increasing interconnection between market turmoil and the deepening political crisis in the US. The latest stage is the government shutdown along with the political furore set off by President Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria and the consequent resignation of retired Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin added some economic fuel to the fire with his statement on Monday. He said that the previous evening he had called the chief executives of the biggest US banks, who had “confirmed that they have ample liquidity available for lending to consumer, business markets, and all other market operations.”

The Mnuchin move was highly unusual given that no one, to that point, had raised the question of whether the banks’ liquidity was being impacted by the market sell-off. It fueled concerns around the question: What did Mnuchin know?

The turbulence was also compounded by reports, first surfacing on Bloomberg, that President Trump was considering firing Jerome Powell, the chair of the US Federal…

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