February 8, 2018
Is the Stock Market Rigged?
On February 6 PCR asked if the Plunge Protection Team had stepped in and prevented a stock market correction by purchasing equity index futures. https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/02/06/another-arrested-equity-correction-paul-craig-roberts/ Sure enough, the daily exchange volume chart shows an increase in futures activity on February 2 with sharp increases on Feb. 5th and 6th. Those are the days when the stock market averages were experiencing large point drops. So, ask yourself, would you purchase equity futures while experiencing cumultive stock market drops? One can understand shorting a dropping market, but not buying futures.
Unless this is what happened. Seeing the beginning of a correction, the Plunge Protection Team placed a futures bid just below the existing price. Traders saw the bid, recognized that the government was intervening to support the market, and the bid was front-run with the hedge fund algorithms automatically picking up the action.
The futures purchases prevented margin calls and stop/loss orders in a heavily leveraged equity market that would have collapsed the market.
What are the pros and cons of this kind of intervention (which might have occurred also in May 2010 and August 2015)? By stopping a correction, the intervention prevented a pension fund collapse, both private and state. However, by propping up over-valued equities that the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing created, the intervention rewarded over-leveraged speculative risk-taking and prevented price discovery. We still have an equity market whose values rest on record margin debt, stock buy-backs, and prices pumped up by money-printing. The problems waiting to come home continue to build.
The question is: can intervention prop-up over-valued, problem-ridden markets forever?
After today’s drop, we will see what happens tomorrow.
About Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West, How America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.
Copyright © Paul Craig Roberts 2018
Reprinted with permission from www.paulcraigroberts.org