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Metals walloped by growing fears of a slowing China

Jonathan Zander | Wikipedia

China's February export data sent the Shanghai Index reeling overnight, which tumbled 2.9 percent overnight, and is not far from the lowest levels since August. Exports plummeted 18.1 percent from a year earlier, and with imports are up 10.1 percent China is now operating in a trade deficit of $23 billion for the month.

Copper is down another 1.25 percent today after a four percent drop on Friday; it's now near its lowest levels in a year as China demand wanes. Yet it's not just copper: other base metals are going nowhere.


Base metals price change in the last 12 months

Copper -13 percent

Aluminum -10 percent

Zinc -7 percent

The PowerShares DB Base Metal ETF, which holds copper, zinc and aluminum futures contracts, tells the story of a market under pressure—it's been slowly descending for over a year.


1) Get ready for a surge of tech-based initial public offerings (IPOs). I told you two weeks ago a tsunami of tech IPOs was coming soon. After a big debut from COUPONS.com (COUP) on Friday, Castlight Health (CSLT), a cloud-based platform to help employers control healthcare costs, is scheduled to begin trading on Friday.

Castilight is being carefully watched: they have less than $20 million in revenue, but may open with a $1 billion market cap. One of the co-founders, Todd Park, was a co-founder of Athenahealth; he is now Chief Technology Officer of the United States.

2) The Federal Reserve speaker to listen to this week is Stanley Fischer, speaking Friday. We haven't heard from him at all. There are hearings on Thursday for him to be vice-chair of the Fed, so don't expect him to veer too far from the Fed's current position. His actions at the Bank of Israel have been somewhat dovish, as he cut rates quickly there.

3) Sunday March 9th marked the five years since the market lows...the S&P 500 is up something like 180 percent since then. Amazing...almost 200 percent if you count the dividends.

There's a huge difference between now and then: there was a financial meltdown looming then, and prices reflected that gloomy possibility. That "death scenario" is now gone. Yet one thing that hasn't changed is the yield on the 10-year Treasury. Today it's 2.79 percent...five years ago it was about the same.

So yields are the same, and corporate earnings are modestly higher. The only thing that seems changed is liquidity.There's much more of it, and that goes to the difference between stock and bond prices.

High yield, however, has had big moves. The iShares High Yield Corporate Bond ETF has bounced from the low 60s five years ago to 94 today, a gain of over 30 percent.

By CNBC's Bob Pisani

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Wall Street