Société Générale nearly crashed the world Stock Exchange

Last week was not a quiet river for the world’s Stock Exchange markets. Even if you are not usually in tune with these issues, you could not miss the flow of troubled news: World’s stock markets violently fell in the beginning of last week, leaving most economic and financial observers in very unsure waters. As a matter of fact, while the fog is lifting we start having a clearer view of the quite extraordinary panorama of events, and it links nearly all the significant elements in a global, logical and surprising composite image.

One could be surprised to see all the European stock markets diving suddenly, apparently without any external influence: no bad economic news from the US (the markets were closed for Martin Luther King’s Day and recession was only a lancinating but dull pain).

First, it all starts during the preceding weekend when the head of Société Générale (one of the largest French banks) discovers a financial embezzlement that leads to a loss of 5 billion euros (7MM$). Up to now, it is only an internal affair that could lead to a company failure; enormous, troubling for the French public, but very limited anyway. However, this is not the whole reality: this loss is created by the use of financial instruments based on the sale of a lot of real stocks. Société Générale must sell around 50 billion euros (70MM$). And it must happen quickly!

IndexesStarting Monday, Société Générale opens major warehouse sales. But nobody has been told about it in advance, of course. This comes as a shock wave. To give you a rough idea of the size of it, the preceding record of daily exchanges on the market was 13 billion euros in the middle of the 1987 crash. But Société Générale has only a few days to close the gaps, so it drowns the market (it is not even clear if they have finished this enormous operation now). Immediately, everybody sees goodsstocks on sales. It seems there is not a single buyer and it is true that there is not enough buyers to help, by far.

But in a global financial market like we have today, such a situation cannot be isolated. One of the largest Stock Exchanges in the world going down is a very strong signal for all the others. You may not know exactly why, but you prefer to sell in Shanghai and New York. everybody follows the hint, even if it means that there will be a later correction. Now, things start tumbling down.

In reality the economic situation in the US has been more and more troubling in the recent months. The real estate bubble built mainly on the granting of credits that are essentially doomed from the beginning (sub-primes are just an elegant way to re-finance and present the personal credits for people who are not able to pay them; When it happens locally, it is elegant, when everybody does it, it’s a recipe for nightmares and catastrophe) is blowing out while the American economy is a little soft and slow. In this context, the American consumer is understandably worried and limits its spending. The trouble is forwarded into the real economy: companies sell less, have less income. What was localized in the purely financial world is dripping down into the real world.

In such a context, Stock Markets see several important signal going red: losses on the financial markets, companies having more and more difficulties to sell their goods (the Stock Exchange always tries to forecast what the economic world will be in a few months). If some of the signals are not fully red yet, it’s enough anyway: Everybody goes selling, the markets run down.

An amplification also went from the technical analysis or graphical analysis. Many a trader (and as many trading software programs) concentrate on observing tendencies shown by a graphical representation of Stock Exchange prices. This technique is powerful enough to make relatively good forecasts, and it has been announcing a slow down then a drop of several percents in the following weeks.

So, the trigger comes from Société Générale, but the rest of the environment was also needed. Société Générale did not have any choice in the day to make its decisions, of course. If not this, Stock Markets would probably have been using any other trigger. But the whole sequence is impressive

Last words: If we remove completely the trigger, there is still a heavy trend linked to all the other factors. But there is still a troubling factor: You can notice that, now that every world’s Stock Exchange market has been hit, New York appears still unblemished (it was closed on the critical day). The Federal Reserve clearly helped protect it, but many experts believe that markets still need a real purge in the form of a still upcoming violent drop…