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Stock Markets Plunge. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 5, 2018 - 15:00   ET



RANA FOROOHAR, CNN ANALYST: Well, the markets actually don't like wage hikes, because that means that interest rates are probably going to go up at some stage. The Fed is going to need to raise them to get ahead of inflation, and the markets don't like that.

So, we're having the sort of strange disconnect right now between Wall Street and Main Street, where things are finally actually starting to look a bit better.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So the president obviously has linked himself very closely to the rising Dow. And we should point out overall it's down just 3 percent from the high.


He -- you know, there's two things happening here, Anderson. Yes, the tax cuts, there's no doubt that they have raised animal spirits in the C suites and in business and on Wall Street, but, again, the Fed is really the key actor here.

The Fed has kept interest rates low for many, many years. The wage inflation that we're seeing now is really the result of that. I always say presidents get too much credit for good economies and probably too much criticism for bad economies. And that's true not just in this presidency, but for any.

COOPER: It's interesting that as the president was speaking the Dow was going down. And now we just saw it go down to 800, and now it's at 793.

Just overall, just to put it in context and perspective, how big a drop is this, a drop of 3 percent today?

FOROOHAR: You know, it's not as big as you would think. If you look at it in sheer numbers, you can say, wow, this is the biggest sheer number drop in some time, but actually it's roughly around the same kind of drop we saw during Brexit a couple of years ago.

So, yes, it's significant. Yes, it's coming at an important moment. But no, we're not talking about going back to 2008 again here.

COOPER: I also want to bring in David Chalian.

David, we heard the president during that speech refer to I believe it was all Democrats -- or I think he was referring to all the Democrats as treasonous and un-American.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I wrote down both those words also.

And he even noted, and I'm supposed to sit down and make a deal with Nancy Pelosi? Now, yes, it's tough to sit down and make a deal with people you're calling treasonous and un-American. So if there's any talk of bipartisanship, remember, that was a big theme going into the State of the Union, that the White House was saying that the president was really developing a bipartisan approach and extending an olive branch.

Today, he called Democrats treasonous and un-American. It's less than a week from his State of the Union address, so I don't think we should believe that that bipartisan outreach was all that authentic in the State of the Union.

The other thing to note here, Anderson, is we're getting a preview of what President Trump is going to be doing and selling on the campaign trail this midterm election year. He's in one of those states that has a Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, running for reelection in a state that Donald Trump won.

So, there he is boosting the likely Republican nominee there, Jim Renacci, and questioning and saying, and you're going to hear this every time he goes to a red state that he won that has a Democrat up for reelection, he voted against you on the tax cuts. He or she voted against you.

This is what he's out there to sell today, this notion of the tax cuts. But, obviously, the Dow and what it's doing today complicates that message a bit.

COOPER: And, Rana, for folks at home who are watching, watching this number, 748 now, what is your advice to them? How should they see this?

FOROOHAR: Well, I would say don't make any sudden moves.

It's really difficult to tell at this stage whether or not this volatility and this drop is going to continue over the next few weeks and months and turn into something really much more significant or whether this is just a natural reaction.

Look, we have a new Fed chair coming in. We finally have a little bit of wage inflation. This is all new territory for the markets. I would say sit tight. Don't do anything for the next few weeks unless you really need your money right now. And hopefully most people are invested long term and don't need to make any quick moves.

COOPER: Rana, what are the circuit-breakers for a Dow loss?

FOROOHAR: Well, you know, you don't want to see things -- you don't want to start getting into, say, a 5 percent dip. You don't want to start getting into territory in which the markets look like there is a fear factor coming in. And, you know, I think the big question right now is, is this a

natural correction? Many people, including me, have been saying, look, we're due, we're overdue for a correction. We have had market highs for many, many years now. We're at the end of a recovery cycle.

And this is interesting politically, because the Republicans have a really tough calculus. There's a very good chance that the economy could slow down in the next year or two. I don't know about before the midterms, but certainly before 2020. So it's going to be very interesting to see whether or not this Dow going down signifies bigger economic problems, which would then have a much bigger political impact.

COOPER: And, David Chalian, that is in the past why presidents haven't really linked themselves to the stock market or claimed the stock market's success is their success, like this president has, because when it goes down, then the question, of course, is, well, is it their fault?


CHALIAN: Right. And the White House had an answer for that question today when they had a little briefing with reporters on the way out to Ohio on the plane saying, well, there's going to be short-term fluctuation in the market, of course, everybody knows that, but the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

Well, that is not at all what President Trump has been touting as he's been touting the huge market success and claiming credit for it. So, when he does that, he's also going to have to own when the market goes bumpy. And, certainly, if there's an actual economic slowdown in the years ahead, there's no way for him to avoid owning that.

COOPER: Rana, you talked about this a little bit. Now we're over a loss of 900, closing in on 4 percent from the market high just a few weeks ago.

Just talk about the good economic news that did come out Friday, that wages are up and Wall Street's reaction to it, not embracing obviously that news.

CHALIAN: Yes. Yes, it's such a strange thing, and I'm sure it's so hard for people sitting and watching now to understand.

Wages are up. That should be a good thing. Why are the markets going down? Well, markets like low inflation. They like low interest rates. What happens, when wages go up, you start to get inflation in the economy. That means that the Fed may have to come in and put the brakes on those markets.

Markets love easy money. The music keeps going, people keep trading, they keep going up. But, really, what we're seeing now is the end of a very long process. You know, it's been a decade since the financial crisis. We have had a long recovery and things may be shifting now.

We finally got a little bit of wage inflation, and there's a synchronized global recovery, we should say, too. Europe is up, Asia is up, so there's been a lot of good news. But we're coming to the end of that. In the next year or two, it's very possible that we could see the markets go down and growth start to slow as well.

COOPER: Just in terms of international markets, how are they doing today, Rana?

CHALIAN: International markets have been somewhat jittery off the back of what's happened in the U.S.

As I say, though, it's very interesting, because it's quite rare to find the real economy in the U.S. going up, Europe doing well, Asia doing well. A lot of people that I'm talking to are saying, hey, don't panic. This is a natural correction.

We may be at a change cycle in terms of interest rates, that's what the markets are reacting to, but the economy is really pretty healthy going forward. Now, the big question mark still is whether or not the markets have been so overinflated for such a long period of time, as other people, many other people think they have.

Many people think that Wall Street has become really, really disconnected from Main Street and that we're due for a much bigger correction. And then when that happens, do all of us that see our stocks go down, do we start to panic? Does that start to have a real effect on Main Street?

Those are always the big questions when you start to get a correction.

COOPER: There is also the new Fed chief. She talked about Janet Yellen has been -- is leaving, has left. I'm wondering what his impact is and what the belief is that the Fed is going to be doing? Because, obviously, interest rates have been extraordinarily low since 2008.

CHALIAN: Yes, absolutely.

And, boy, what a tough time to come in and be Jerome Powell taking over at a real turning point. No matter what kind of a person he was, no matter what kind of economy you had, this is a big change point.

I think that he is going to be under pressure to certainly not rattle the markets, but also to not let inflation get out of control, because that can really start to have a slowdown effect. It's going to be a big tightrope that he's walking.

And the Fed is kind of out of ammunition, because they have dumped about $4 trillion worth of money into the economy over the last decade. We have had really low interest rates, as you were saying. There's not a lot else they can do. It's really time for Washington to pick up that ball and run with it, but, of course, we have incredibly polarized politics right now.


I want to bring in our Richard Quest, who is joining us right now. Richard, when -- as you see these numbers, down 4.22 percent off the

high, what do you make of it?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as I said the best part of an hour ago with you, Anderson, I'm not surprised.

We're in that tricky part of the day, where the market closes its books within that last hour or so, so that there was some acceleration of the selling is not a surprise. We are overall -- and this is where we need to put it -- as Rana was saying, we need to put it fully in perspective.

We're down anywhere between 8 percent and 9 percent now from the all- time high. The traditional definition of a correction is 10 percent. So we're well heading towards that direction.

COOPER: You're talking about over the last two days, Friday and today?

QUEST: Well, if you just take from the turmoil -- if you just from the all-time high to where we are now...

COOPER: Which was just a couple of weeks ago.

QUEST: Yes, yes, within the last two weeks.

But what we're also seeing now, of course, because of algorithms, because of high-frequency trading, we see considerably more volatility. And just as much as we saw that volatility on the upside, so we're going to see it on the downside, which is why we are going to see these 1,000-point moves in a day, 5 percent.


By the way, to those who are thinking about circuit-breakers -- and I heard Rana talking about it a moment ago -- the timing is 3:25 in the afternoon when the circuit-breakers rules change.

But if the market was to fall more -- or the S&P was to fall more than 7 percent now, there would be a circuit-breaker. But we're -- as you see, we're some way off that at the moment.

This is frightening. There's no getting away from it. When you see a market in full flood, it's when you have to keep calm and just remember that it's up 30 percent to 40 percent since the election, and what you're seeing is the froth coming off the top in a very ugly way.

COOPER: People have been talking about valuations being too high for quite some time.

COOPER: They have.

But prices are -- people are always talking. As long as I can remember -- and Rana probably would agree -- people are either sagely and sagaciously saying, well, P/E ratios are very high and then P/E ratios are very low. The reality is, it depends on the sector and it depends on the point

of the cycle that that sector is. So, some, like Amazon, will be at one end. Ford will be at the other.

FOROOHAR: Yes, I agree with that.

I would be looking particularly at the tech sector, at the financial sector. Some of those have really driven the markets in the last year and say, OK, how much froth is going to come off of there?

I have to say I have been one of the people in the last year or two that have thought that the markets have become way too disconnected from Main Street. So I'm not at all surprised at correction. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a bigger correction.

QUEST: So, looking now, we are 9 percent off the all-time high.

So we're just about at the -- there's no official definition, the conventional definition. And I promise you it will not be long before the soothsayers will be out reminding us that the bear market definition is a fall of 20 percent.

And that's what everybody will be looking at it. There's nothing extraordinary investors can do now. This is the thing you need to bear in mind, Anderson. The consumer investor, unless you have to get out of this market, you don't.

FOROOHAR: That's right.

QUEST: Because the market is now on a frolic of its own to the downside.

COOPER: Will some people obviously will be looking into this market at this point? For those who have been concerned that stocks have been so high, this is an opportunity, I assume.

FOROOHAR: You know, I think that some people will be buying into the dip. It really depends on whether or not you think the economy both in the U.S. and globally is fundamentally OK and whether things are going to get better and whether what the president is saying about businesses reinvesting in America is really true, or whether you think we have been in a kind of sugar high for the last several years, buoyed by this $4 trillion of Fed money, $30 trillion globally, if you count all the global money that has gone into the markets from central bankers, and whether or not we're due for a correction off the back of that.

QUEST: And it's a bit of both in that sense, because the sugar high did lead to the market rally, but the market rally and the sugar high did lead to fundamental economic growth,the U.S. 2.2 to 2.6 percent. The E.U. is growing, the Eurozone is growing even faster than that.

So to sort of suggest a total, all-out calamitous crash would be marginally perverse when you look at the underlying economic fundamentals. Yes, I know there are people worried about debt and debt ratios that are climbing. But take those to one side at the moment.


FOROOHAR: You know, I would add one thing to what Richard is saying, which is that the market and the real economy are connected in the sense that we all feel wealthier when the market goes up and that has an impact on our spending, right?

You're willing to go out and unzip your wallet if you feel like, hey, my stock portfolio is doing really well. So those two things really are connected. And it's going to be interesting to see as the market goes down how much real impact that has on people's behavior.

COOPER: Yes, I want to bring in also Clare Sebastian, who is live at the stock exchange.

Clare, I'm wondering what the reaction is there.


We did hear a bit of a roar when the market went down over 1,000 points. But it's been pretty calm actually on the floor up until then. Some traders even telling us that the volatility is actually something they have been looking for, for a long time.

Don't forget traders don't just make money when the stock market goes up. They make money when you have dips and troughs and things that you can bet on. Suddenly here, the sense is that many people have been looking for a correction, that this is long overdue.

And despite the fact that the economic fundamentals are there, job growth, wage growth, that that perversely can concern some investors. The wage growth number we got last week was the highest since 2009, and that has led to fears that inflation could rise and that could lead the Fed to act faster, to raise rates more aggressively than they had original planned.


But overall here, things have been remarkably calm on the floor. but I think now we're around the 1,000 mark, we are getting more of a sense of tension here.

COOPER: Although, Clare, just when you look at the actual numbers, the Dow Jones at 24499 right now, I'm not sure when it hit 24000, but it wasn't all that long ago.

When it went over 20000, that was new territory and we have been seeing it go up and up. The high was, I think, around 26000, so we're not that far off.

SEBASTIAN: No, we're absolutely not. And it is definitely worth putting that in context when you look at the historical chart even over just the last year-and-a-half, the Dow, the S&P and Nasdaq all up 21 percent, even more since Trump's election. Don't forget there were those horror stories that we had just before

he was elected that it might lead to a major crash in the market and it hasn't. The market has been supported over the last year by the promise of that tax cut, by the strength of the economy, by the earnings that we have seen, and, of course, by the low interest rates that we have seen from the Fed.

I think many of those things still stand. The tax cut, the economy, earnings have been pretty strong. It's just the interest rates really where we have the question now, and that's because the bond market has seen some turmoil.

And we've seen that high wage number. And that's fueling concerns, as I said, about inflation. But, overall, yes, this is a correction perhaps and we're getting close to that point now, but not a catastrophe and certainly not a bear market, which is a 20 percent dip from the high.

QUEST: So to explain what we're now seeing in the market, what you're looking at is effectively computers trading. You're looking at algorithmic trading, because normally there's no way a market can go from 5.2 percent, 5.5 percent down to 3.4 percent down to have a swing of 600 points in the space of less than five minutes.

So this is what we have known for a long time drives the market. The moment these -- these algorithms see opportunities, they're back into buy, and the moment they see it going the other way, the market will sell out.

I would not be surprised -- I haven't seen the volume number at the moment, but I would imagine it will be well over a billion shares that will be overall today. You're literally seeing huge numbers of trades, automatic trades being completed.

COOPER: It's worth noting, I think, and correct me if I'm wrong, Richard, if the S&P declines 7 percent in a single day, stock trading comes to a stop for 15 minutes?

QUEST: Yes, 7 percent is the first one, and then I think it's 13 percent is the second one for another 15 minutes, and then 20 percent is when the markets shut for the day.

But that's only if the first bit happens, if the first two happen before 3:25. And we're now at 3:15 Eastern time. So within the next 10 minutes, after 10 minutes, it's got to be a 20 percent fall before the circuit-breakers, but it's coming back.

Look at that, 3.1 percent down now. I'm not even looking at the numeric, just look at the percentage. Now 3 percent down. We have had a range of 2, 2.5 percent in the space of five minutes.

COOPER: You say you're looking just at the percentage, not at the number, because the number is misleading. For you the number, that you care about is the percentage?

QUEST: Always. The number becomes frightening for every one of us who is invested

through 401(k)s in the market, but it's meaningless in the sense that, you know, it just looks big. It's actually the percentage that you have got to keep an eye on.

And that's -- you also look, for example, at the lower number, so 24600. Well, 25,000 was psychologically important. That was a barrier that the techs and the chartists would look at. If it tests certain levels going down, it will push further down and the same on the way up.

COOPER: David Chalian, it's worth noting the president has not seen any of this. He is still speaking in Ohio.


And so he's a cable news aficionado, so he is keenly aware, I'm sure, that while he's speaking these numbers are scrolling across the screen, but he's not aware of what these numbers are saying right now. I'm sure he will learn as soon as he gets offstage.

But this is the risk of a president who lives and dies by the numbers. He stands there. These market numbers are scrolling right next to him and it is impossible to separate the two, especially when someone like President Trump has so hung his hat on the good stock market numbers during his tenure.

COOPER: Do you think, David, that he then comments on this once the markets are closed? Or does the White House just stay away from this?

CHALIAN: I don't know how to predict that. I think predicting that Donald Trump doesn't comment on things always seems to be a bad prediction, because of his addiction to Twitter, so we may hear some commentary from him on this.


COOPER: David Chalian, though, he can honestly say that, look, the markets are still in record territory and this has happened under -- while he has been president.

CHALIAN: Not only that. I would imagine him to say how good it is that wages are going up on Main Street and he's more of a Main Street president than a Wall Street president and play to the populist theme and completely ignore all of his comments and tweets about the success of the stock market up until last week.

COOPER: The president now finished speaking, greeting some of the workers at that manufacturing planting in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he has been speaking for the last quite some time.



QUEST: No, I was just saying, look at that. We're over 1,000 points down again, down 4 percent. And now we really move into, I don't want to say dangerous -- there's nothing dangerous about it. You move into a very volatile territory, where anybody who's involved in the market, particularly on the floor of the exchange down on Wall Street and Broad itself, they will all be trying to ensure that they are in the position they want to be in going into the overnight.

You know, you don't want anything hanging over if you're long in the market. At the same time, you want to make sure you're fully covered. So, for example, there could be a lot of people who were short in the market who will be liking this. They have sold shares they didn't own. They're now buying them back.

You could start to see the shorts being covered in the next day or so. But for the moment, we're just basically 35 minutes away, 40 minutes away from the closing bell.

COOPER: Obviously, many people watching this -- sorry.


COOPER: Go ahead, Rana.

FOROOHAR: I was just going to say, I think both Richard and David bring up an interesting point in terms of how the president would spin a potential market correction.

It is true that the top 20 percent of the population owns 80 percent of the stocks. So you can imagine a story where the populist president says, hey, don't worry about what's happening on Wall Street, that's just the rich guys that you have to worry about, all of this sort of algorithmic trading that Richard was talking about.

I could imagine him spinning it in that direction, although it would be a great irony, because of course he is one of those rich guys.

COOPER: But, obviously, Richard, a lot of people watching this are thinking about their 401(k)s.

QUEST: And that's the irony to go on what Rana has just said. If you think back to some of the president's recent speeches, he's looked out to his audiences and said specifically, hey, don't you love what's happening to your 401(k)s? He's said it by name. He's used the phrase.

I think it was with firemen recently. He said, you love what you're seeing with your 401(k). Well, now, Mr. President, go back in front of those same people and say much of what you have gained is now gone.

And the bit of market psychology here, which Rana will know well, you are more upset about what you have handed back than losses you may have made in the first place.


QUEST: So if the market has gone up and you didn't sell, you are more aggrieved about the fact it's come down and you had the chance to lock in those profits and you didn't do so.

COOPER: But people who try to sell at the high, that's -- obviously, that's what people dream about doing, but very few people are actually able to do that.

FOROOHAR: Oh, absolutely not. Most individual investors should by no means be actively managing their own portfolios.

You know, those of us who have stocks indexed know that you just have to wait, you have to wait out these market highs and lows. You know, but as Clare was pointing out, volatility is where Wall Street makes its money. I think you are going to see a lot of traders being very excited. We have not had this much motion in the market in some time. And you're going to see fortunes definitely being made and lost.

QUEST: And that exactly was what we saw in the banking numbers when they reported results over the last year or two.

All the banks basically said volatility has been down. Therefore, our earnings have been hit as a result of it. This is -- Rana and myself, we study this and we look at this on an hourly basis every day of our working lives.

I can understand to people who have watched the last two to three years and seen pretty much a solid ascendancy of the market to vertiginous heights now thinking, is this calamity? Well, there's not much you can do about it. You're in this now.


QUEST: This is where it is going. Unless you have to get out, you don't. That's the fundamental rule.

FOROOHAR: That's right.

COOPER: In terms of inflation, Rana, you referenced this a little bit before with the new Fed chief, the options. Does the Fed have the same kind of options that they did before? They pumped a lot of money into this economy over the last decade.

FOROOHAR: That's right. Absolutely.

You're hitting the nail on the head. No, they do not have the same options and that's what a lot of people are worried about. If you go way back a decade ago to the financial crisis, the Fed had a lot of options. They put the $4 trillion in, they lowered interest rates.

We had kind of a huge money dump of a kind that we've never seen. And that's why people are actually a bit nervous right now, I think, because we have had a decade of totally unprecedented monetary policy.


We don't really know what the implications are going to be. A lot of people that both Richard and I have speak to have said, you know what, the hens are going to come home to roost at some point here and we're going to see a big correction, because we've had the sugar high of easy money.

Other people are saying, no, it's OK, slow and steady. A small correction may be due, but underlying fundamentals are good. The jury is still out. We don't know yet.

COOPER: It's interesting, Richard, because you also have a lot of people who now work on Wall Street who have been there over the last 10 years who are really only used to a rising market.

QUEST: Yes, we have had a couple of days where there have been 1,000- point falls, the Brexit incident, and there have been a couple of other days, flash crashes and the likes, where we have seen very sizable moves.

But there's an entire generation of Americans who have never seen a full-scale bear market, nor have they seen interest rates above, say, 1 percent or 2 percent.


QUEST: And even -- look, even if the Fed's worst prognosis in 2018 comes true, which is another four interest rate rises, three or four, of a quarter-point each, you're still only heading towards 1.75 percent to 2 percent.

So you're still way off anything like those of us of a certain age that remember 5 percent, 6 percent, 7 percent, let alone those of an older age who would remember the 20 -- the 13 percent and 14 percent of the 1980s.

FOROOHAR: And this is a great point. And the point about interest rates rising and what that does to debt both for consumers, individuals and also companies is really salient here, because interest rates make a big difference in your home mortgage prices, in your car loans, in your student loans.

For corporations, corporations that have been holding a lot of debt, those stocks could be particularly in trouble now if interest rates start to go up faster than people think.

COOPER: Have the mistakes that led to 2008, Rana, have they -- have those lessons been learned? Are the fundamentals stronger than they were in 2008?


FOROOHAR: Well, that's the -- I hear Richard laughing. That's kind of the $60,000 question.


FOROOHAR: Or what is it, $30 trillion question. That's how much the central bankers have dumped in. The $30 trillion question.

I have got to say I'm not sure that lessons have been learned, and I will tell you why, because, if you go back to 2008, politicians weren't able to do a lot. And we got somewhat of a fiscal stimulus plan under President Obama, but really what we got was central bankers coming in and dumping a ton of money into the economy.

A lot of people -- I'm one of them -- think that that's kind of a Band-Aid over problems. Easy money makes a lot of problems go away, but it's kind of like the tide. As Warren Buffett once told me, when it pulls out, you see who's been swimming without their shorts on. And I suspect that if we get a more serious correction, we are going to see exactly that.

QUEST: So you have got on the macro prudential side, yes, things are considerably better. There are a lot better buffers, Tier 1 capital, Basel III, all these sort of things.

However, however, if you look at the debt levels and the rising debt levels, consumer debt, credit card debt, auto loans, they have been rising once again to worrying levels. And the feeling is that the creditworthiness of much of this debt, they have learned nothing from it.

So, yes, we saw some numbers recently, in fact, in the banking numbers. If you look at nonperforming loans and loans expected to nonperform, they have risen. All the major banks have increased the amount of provision against those loans.

However, as a result of the Fed's work, even a worst-case scenario from stress testing, it shouldn't be anywhere near what we saw back in 2008.

FOROOHAR: That's a great point. Richard is absolutely right, that the financial system, the formal panicking system itself is definitely safer than it was, no question.

Banks have off-loaded a lot of their riskiest stuff. The bad stuff has gone to other parts of the market, the shadow banking center, hedge funds.

What is interesting to me, though, is I guess the fundamental lesson, it's a deep one, but I don't think we have learned, is we haven't shifted our economy to one that operates primarily on debt to one that is really about a high-wage, good-job economy.

And this goes to some of the points that the president was trying to make in his speech. He is saying, oh, I love manufacture, I love good jobs. We haven't really made that shift back to a manufacturing economy and we may not be able to make it back to an old-style manufacturing economy.

But we need to move away from an economy that's based on debt to one that is based on higher wages and can cope with that. There are other economies that do this. Germany is one of them. But that's a transition that we're still trying to make.

And I think that politicians on both sides are going to try to own the solutions to that issue.

QUEST: The Fed is in a very tricky position today.

Janet Yellen's last meeting, no move, but everybody --