Financial institution collapse. For better or worse, the banking system is a key part of the global economic foundation for countries around the world. If a major bank was to collapse in Europe or the United States this would be a significant event that would potentially dry up liquidity for financial markets. This is what happened in 2008 when Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers collapsed.
United States financial institutions are not have the strongest candidates for potential collapse; that prize goes to Europe. Of course, many banks in Europe are already nationalized which is a more orderly collapse. If Europe decided to allow a financial institution to move towards insolvency without any rescue aid, this would be a negative for the markets.
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A sudden spike in inflation. Inflation is muted at best at least according to the statistics provided by the federal government. In fact, Social Security increases this year have been announced and will be less than 2 percent once again. But if news came out that inflation was creeping back into the economy and that spikes in costs associated with living expenses were beyond expected levels, this would be a negative for the equity and fixed income market.
A cataclysmic government shutdown in the United States. Legislators have cried Wolf before and we have seen markets fluctuate greatly when the specter of a government shutdown emerges. What is most impactful about a shutdown is the Treasury Department declining to pay interest payments on government instruments. This would have a negative impact on the credit rating of the United States and would cause other countries, especially China, to conclude that investing in treasuries is fraught with risk.
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A spike in the unemployment rate. The unemployment picture in the United States is better but not great. Underemployment is still rampant though unemployment is showing a slightly improving jobs market. In reality, unemployment statistics painting mixed picture at best. If the unemployment statistics stopped improving and surprisingly moved upward instead over several time periods this would be disconcerting to market participants and volatility would be the result.
These four headlines are not outside the realm of possibility.
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Remember the market is not rational on the short-term. The formula remains the same as it always has; fundamentals combined with a dose of hysteria and a perception of the future. Because program trading and computerized sell orders are utilized to a greater degree in today's current environment, the emotional component associated with the stock market is greater than ever before. Key words can be monitored by databases and sell orders automatically triggered far faster than the old days of writing up order tickets.
For that reason, it makes sense to have a fundamental strategy in place for the long-term but to assess current conditions with the recognition that data and emotion work hand-in-hand on the short-term.