Deflationary winds? Traders are fixing on the idea of deflationary fears as the main reason commodities and commodity stocks are down so much today. True, Producer Price Index (PPI) was surprisingly weak, but mostly on weak energy prices.
But I think the real concern is simple: disappointing economic numbers and, in the case of commodities, over-supply.
It was a disappointing March for economic stats (ISM Services, Nonfarm payrolls, Retail Sales, Consumer Sentiment) and now we start off April with disappointing Consumer Sentiment numbers.
Commodities are telling you that global growth is lousy. Look at copper--near a 52-week low even before today. They have not been the beneficiaries of the wave of money central banks have thrown at the world.
I am not indifferent to deflationary concerns. Certainly the bond market, as Art Cashin has pointed out, is flashing a warning signal with 10 year yields back down to 1.73 percent. To the extent that a big increase in debt diverts resources to maintaining that debt that could be used for better purposes, then sure I am worried about deflation.
As for gold, once it hit its 52-week intraday low ($1,526.70 on May 16, 2012) it simply collapsed this morning. This was technical selling, pure and simple, though concerns on increasing supply from European central banks were a trigger.
By the way: huge volume in SPDR Gold Trust, which normally does 10 million shares, now approaching 45 million and counting near 2 PM ET.
Outside of commodity names, the stock market is not a disaster today. In fact, the overall market is remarkably resilient. Defensive names (utiltiies, healthcare, consumer) are holding up well. In healthcare, biotech names like Biogen Idec and Amgen are both at historic highs. Poor retail sales, surprisingly, are not killing retailers.
—By CNBC's Bob Pisani