MarketWatch's top 10 stories: Aug. 1-5
It might also help to know that the so-called fear index , the CBOE's VIX (VIX), came precariously close to doubling from its levels of last week on its way to a 52-week high. Or that Thursday's stock wipeout actually did more damage, on a closing basis, than May 2010's "flash crash." Or that that selloff triggered no fewer than 460 short-sale curbs , according to the New York Stock Exchange. Or that Bank of New York Mellon (BK) felt compelled to tell its best customers — or at least biggest depositors — that they'd henceforth need to pay for the privilege of warehousing their bundles of greater $50 million at the bank . Or that trading volumes Thursday set a high-water mark for 2011 — only to be eclipsed a day later. Or that a topsy-turvy Friday session at one point saw the Dow industrials enjoying a near-stratospheric intraday rally while the Nasdaq Composite was mired some 1.5% in the red. Or that Friday's 400-plus-point intraday point swing on the Dow somehow no longer felt so extraordinary.
By the end of the week — the Dow industrials' worst since March 2009 and the broader S&P 500's losingest since November 2008 — the Dow (DJIA) had retreated 5.8%, the S&P (SPX) slumped nearly 7.2% and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) was down 8.1%. See Market Snapshot for more of the week's recap .
Next week will have a hard time holding a candle to — or fanning flames like — this one, but here's a peek at what's on tap for the U.S., European and Asian markets:
U.S. Week Ahead: Europe and Fed in focus .
Europe Week Ahead: U.K. inflation and earnings.
Asia Week Ahead: China inflation data and an earning flood.
— Tim Rostan , managing editor
It would perhaps have been comforting to think so, but, reports Mark Hulbert, market bottoms historically have not looked like Thursday's stock rout. Mark Hulbert: Panics typically are followed by more losses.
The flood of bad, awful, terrible and mediocre economic news has prompted many people to ask: Has the U.S. economy fallen into another recession? Until recently, that question had been restricted to the fringes of investing discussion boards, but now even sober economists are beginning to wonder. Investors, of course, have been selling first and asking questions later. Read recession commentary by Rex Nutting .
Debt deal? Check. America's AAA debt ratings? We'll see. Even after the hard-fought battle over the lifting of the federal debt ceiling was over, and potential default averted, there remained a risk that the credit-rating agencies would strip the U.S. of its coveted top-shelf rating. By Friday the country's status with Moody's and Fitch seemed secure, but a foreboding question mark hung over the U.S.'s status with Standard & Poor's. Read William Watts's report on the wait for verdicts on the U.S.'s credit rating plus see which countries the U.S. would join as a double-A-rated country .
The resumption of the European Central Bank's controversial program of bond purchases risks going down as a textbook example of how not to conduct an intervention, writes Frankfurt-based William Watts. Read: ECB's bond buying: How not to intervene .
The U.S. economy added 117,000 jobs in July, more than 50% more than economists had forecast, and the unemployment rate tiptoed to 9.1% from 9.2%. But the data hardly painted a picture of a job market, or an economy, persuasively on the mend. Read: U.S. economy gains 117,000 jobs in July .
With its investment in jeopardy of costing taxpayers billions, the U.S. Treasury will likely comb through General Motors' (GM) quarterly results, reported Thursday, for indications of when it can extract itself from the car business. See Shawn Langlois's Ahead of the Curve column on the U.S. government's plans for its GM stake .
The rally proved unsustainable in the face of Thursday's ferocious marketwide selloff, but there was no denying the positive reception afforded Kraft Foods shares (KFT) when the company revealed a plan to split into two publicly traded outfits that would separate its worldwide snacks business from its North American grocery empire. Full story: Kraft moves to break into two companies .
Central banks in emerging markets, including Mexico and South Korea, have decided that it's not too late to join gold's (GC1Z) party, according to Myra P. Saefong. Read Myra P. Saefong's Commodities Corner column on what central-bank gold buys mean for rank-and-file investors.
Planned cuts in Medicare payments to skilled-nursing facilities hit the entire hospital sector early this week, including real-estate investment trusts, stripping away as much as half of the market cap of such companies as Sun Healthcare (SUNH), Skilled Healthcare.(SKH) and Kindred Healthcare (KND). Read Russ Britt's report on the Medicare-fueled selloff in health care .
Fear of heart problems is justified since heart disease remains America's No. 1 killer, but patients with stable or no significant symptoms too often are rushed into invasive tests and treatments unnecessarily and without having all the facts, according to an investigation by Consumer Reports. MarketWatch health columnist Kristen Gerencher advises that cardiac patients in nonemergency situations take time to weigh the options .
A few more spotlight-worthy stories:
- Amotz Asa-El, writing from Jerusalem, says Obama, and Democrats and Republicans should study their ancient history and learn from Athens and Sparta, as well as from a mid-1980s Knesset .
- Robert Powell on how the debt-ceiling deal will affect retirees .
- From the good to the bad to the useless — Jack Nutter grades the players and nonplayers in the debt-ceiling battle .
- The Week in Charts: Steve Goldstein's graphical look at the economy .
- U.S. Soccer gets its man: Jurgen Klinsmann (ne Juergen Klinsmann) tapped as national-team coach .