The stock market is in freefall once again, evoking specters of 2008. As one fund manager told the Wall Street Journal on Monday, “the sense of déjà vu is almost sickening.” The storied Dow lost more than 600 points Monday following huge declines late last week, appeared to get its footing yesterday, then plunged more than 500 points today. All over the world, markets are taking stock, so to speak, of the burgeoning debt crisis in the United States and Europe, and fearing the worst.
With gold bouncing up from $1,668 an ounce on Friday, August 5 to $1,778 on Tuesday, August 9, it was the biggest three-day rally since the start of the great recession in 2008. At the same time, the equities markets were falling precipitously, losing over 600 points on the Dow on Monday alone. What is the connection?
On Friday, Standard & Poor's kept its word and downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history — from AAA to AA+. The action came because the debt bill passed last week is not considered stringent enough to stabilize the debt crisis. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (left) has already railed against the credit agency, saying it has shown “terrible judgment” in its decision, but some are using the rating downgrade to call for Geithner’s resignation, a move that Geithner had already been considering. At the behest of President Obama, however, Geithner has decided to stay for now.
Standard and Poor’s was blunt in its assessment of America’s deteriorating financial condition when it announced Friday night that it was cutting its credit rating on United States’ Treasury securities from AAA to the second-tier AA+, with a negative outlook.
Moody’s announcement on Tuesday that it would retain its AAA rating of U.S. government sovereign debt as a result of the debt-limit agreement came with a warning: The government must rein in spending or risk a downgrade anyway. The deal “virtually eliminated the risk of [a] default,” but the agency warned that “Should the new mechanism put in place by the Budget Control Act prove ineffective, this could affect the rating negatively.” Moody’s added that it wanted to see the United States lower its debt-to-GDP ratio, now approaching 100 percent, to around 73 percent by 2015, and then gradually move the ratio lower.