Larry Doyle, a long-time Wall Street veteran and publisher of the Sense on Cents blog, hosts a Sunday night show, "No Quarter Radio's Sense on Cents with Larry Doyle," on Blog Talk Radio. In this week's edition, which features an interview with Phil Davis of Phil's Stock World, Larry raises a question that a few of us, who are amazed at and unsettled by the willingness of investors to throw caution to the wind and repeat the mistakes of the past (see "Back Buying the Same Kind of Crap" for one example), have occasionally wondered about ourselves:
Is the stock market being manipulated?
I can not count the number of times I have been asked that question over the last 9 months. Rather than my offering personal opinions which market pundits may view as sour grapes or worse, I want to revisit a ten-minute segment of my interview last evening with Phil Davis.
The segment runs from 29:45 until 40:00 (audio player provided below). If you do nothing else today, please listen to this dialogue between Phil and myself. Neither of us goes into this conversation with agendas or preconceived notions in an attempt to score points. I will offer an edited version here. I think you will find the information, thoughts, and opinions offered to be enlightening.
PD: It’s getting more and more likely that there’s going to be an event that takes the market down and that’s because of the nature of the market rally. The rally has been a very thinly traded, low participation rally.
LD: I want to pursue that….the idea that there could be or will be some sort of an event. Obviously, all of the governmental support that has come into the market, all of the quantitative easing, the easy money, the 0-.25% Fed Funds rate…all sorts of other backstops. Now they’re trying to figure out how to ease some of those supports out of the market while China and India have increased their rates. Are we overextended? Have we created a little bit of an asset bubble?
PD: I think we have created a ‘helluva’ asset bubble…..Let’s be honest. We were delusional in 2007. Those valuations were completely wrong….the earnings were fake and I want to emphasize again fake because they were fake. They were not only not real earnings but what were reported as earnings turned out to be tremendous losses. The financials were putting out fake numbers…it was all fake…..How did we get the market back to where it is then? How is this even possible?
LD: How much are we overvalued?
PD: Don’t forget the Dow is fake also. They took out GM and Citibank from the Dow. Those are two zeros and they put in Travelers and Cisco…that’s 640 Dow points that were added because they swapped GM and Citi for Travelers and Cisco. Now is that real?
LD: I look at the most actively traded stocks. Almost everyday the most actively traded stock in the market is Citi…this isn’t real…
PD: Whether Citi is real or not, I think you touch on something more important, though. The most active stock is Citi. The next most active stocks are Bank America, Wells Fargo…
LD: Also AIG.
PD: Those trades are 80% of all trades in the market and the total market volume is less than half of what it was back then. In other words, you’ve got half the market participation of what it was and of that half, 80% of it is concentrated in less than half a dozen financial firms.
LD: What does this say about the future of Wall Street?
PD: It says that the people who are running the system are in total control of the marketplace. There is no retail participation….on a relative basis.
LD: They don’t believe it.
PD: ….it looks like a bunch of crooks….
So, is the market being manipulated? I would guess that depends on how one defines manipulation. That said, market volume and market depth tell us a lot. I thank Phil Davis for providing this ’sense on cents.’