Friday, April 13, 2012

The China GDP Head Fake?

Yesterday, April 12, 2012, rumors in the morning about China's first quarter GDP growth coming in around 9%, higher than the expected 8.4%, fueled a stock market rally. (See The Dow Jones Industrial Average bounded up 183 points.

Today, China's first quarter GDP growth was reported at 8.1%, lower than expectations by 0.3%. (See The Dow closed down 136. The rumor was wrong, seriously wrong.

Maybe it was all an innocent mistake. After all, today's Friday the 13th. Maybe someone just misinterpreted something and spread the misinterpretation. But one thing's for sure. Some people made a bunch of money trading the market up yesterday, and then trading it down today. Volatility makes money for Wall Street pros, including market makers, specialists, high speed traders and so on. But some less cynical market participants, who bought and held overnight, probably lost money and quickly.

Volatility can come from exogenous sources. The idiocy underlying the EU's structural problems and its sovereign debt crisis weren't creations of Wall Street. But they sure as pumpernickel have caused a lot of volatility.

There's also home grown volatility, emanating from Wall Street sources that might have a good day at the office if the market is hopping. Spreading truthful and accurate news is generally okay, unless it happens within the context of insider trading. But spreading false information can make regulatory brows furrow.

It's difficult to investigate rumor mongering, especially if the rumor concerns aggregate economic data (as opposed to company-specific or security-specific information). But trading surges triggered by false information undermine investor confidence. Natural investors (i.e., those that buy with the hope of profiting from investing, as opposed to make a quick buck from trading) are the foundation of the financial markets. But, with the 2000 tech cash, the 2008 financial crisis, and the 2010 flash crash, they are leaning, if not running, toward the exits. It really doesn't help when they are jerked around by false rumors.

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