US STOCKS GET CRUSHED

Stocks got crushed because 2016 seems like it’s going to be one of those years.

The Dow fell over 300 points on Wednesday as each of the major averages were off over 2%.

Meanwhile, Brent crude oil — the international benchmark — cracked $30 a barrel at one point, its lowest level since 2004. West Texas Intermediate crude oil was roughly unchanged on Wednesday, trading at around $30.50 a barrel.

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 16,148, -370, (-2.2%)
  • S&P 500: 1,891, -47, (-2.4%)
  • Nasdaq: 4,529, -155, (-3.3%)
  • WTI crude oil: $30.77, (+1%)

And now, the top stories on Wednesday:

  1. This market is all about oil it seems. On Wednesday the price of Brent crude briefly fell below $30 a barrel, something that WTI, the US benchmark, did on Tuesday. A report from RBC Capital Markets earlier this week outlined yet another bearish scenario for the price of oil: supply from Libya. “Libya is the only other real OPEC supply wild card to the upside for 2016,” an RBC Capital Markets team led by Helima Croft wrote. “With over a million barrels currently shut-in due to the ongoing security and political challenges, it remains one of the few OPEC countries that could theoretically put substantial quantities of additional oil on the market this year,” the team added.
  2. In the US, crude oil inventories surged again last week, keeping stocks near 80-year highs for an already oversupplied market.
  3. Jeff Gundlach, the widely-followed bond fund manager who runs DoubleLine, held a webcast on Tuesday night and outlined why oil prices aren’t likely to find relief anytime soon. Basically, Gundlach noted that the market is all about (too much) supply. US shale production has not only increased sharply, but Gundlach argued, effectively, that easy money from the Fed helped sned speculative dollars into oil and gas in a big way over the last several years. This dynamic, then, led to the chart below, which is either good or bad, depending.

  4. Barclays, meanwhile, has cut its forecast for average oil prices this year to $37 a barrel for both Brent and WTI down from $56 and $60, respectively. “For some time now we have taken the view that conditions were falling in to place for a robust recovery in oil in 2016, potentially taking prices back above $70/barrel by year end,” the firm wrote in a recent note to clients. “However, in recent weeks there has been a marked deterioration in oil market fundamentals, and global macro-economic conditions and prices have fallen further than we expected.”
  5. Albert Edwards, resident bear at Societe Generale, said the S&P 500 could be falling below the 666 level it bottomed at in March 2009. Of course, Edwards has made this case before and as in the past pinned most of this thesis on the specter of coming deflation. This time Edwards sees a recession led by the manufacturing sector — which is already in recession, more or less — and thinks a 75% sell-off in stocks could follow. At the bottom, Edwards thinks the S&P 500’s price-to-earnings ratio would fall to about 7. This would be a great buying opportunity.
  6. It’s been a slow week for economic news, but Wednesday saw the release of the Fed’s latest Beige Book report, which noted that both wage and price inflation weren’t prominent over the most recent survey period, which roughly covered the holidays in the US. “Labour markets continued to improve,” the report said, “with employment increases evident in reports from seven Districts. Four Districts mentioned signs of labour market tightening. However, Districts reported little overall change in wage and price pressures, with wage increases running from flat to moderate, while price increases tended to be minimal.
  7. Commentary that caught our eye from the Fed was the help “Star Wars” gave some retailers in Boston and the drag that the strong US dollar had on tourism in New York City.
  8. In single-stock news, Twitter hit another all-time low on Wednesday. Shares of the social media company have been an absolute disaster over the last several months and after trading near $70 a share at point, the stock is now around $18. Chipotle shares got a bit of relief on Wednesday, rising about 5% as the company presented at an investor conference and said the coming months for the company are going to be messy. “It’s going to be messy in terms of margins, it’s going to be messy in terms of earnings,” Chipotle Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung said in an investor presentation Wednesday, referring to the rest of 2016. And while upcoming periods of turmoil are things many investors are prepared for, Hartung’s next comment is potentially more troubling: “We’re not going to be the efficient business model that everyone has come to know.”
  9. ESPN is an interesting company. There is, on the one hand, the company’s utter dominance of the live sports market and you could argue that no company changed media more than ESPN from, say, 1990 to 2005. Now, however, ESPN is maturing and so is the cable industry and the sports-media-industrial complex it helped create. A report from Rich Greenfield at BTIG published Wednesday found that based on a recent consumer survey, ESPN could have trouble going “over-the-top” — a la Netflix — given that, well, most of the people who pay for cable and have ESPN don’t really care about it. You can read the full breakdown here.

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