Stock Market Performance Round-up: Crash of 2008

By: Prieur du Plessis | Fri, Oct 10, 2008
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I normally publish a performance review of global stock markets at the end of each month, but the meltdown around the world of the past few days necessitated an update.

"If a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable to him," said philosopher Seneca in 4 BC 65 AD. Why am I constantly reminded of this quote when looking at some of the rather haphazard actions taken by governments to alleviate the financial turmoil?

And this quote du jour from Richard Russell's Dow Theory Letters of yesterday (spelt precisely the way it appeared in his newsletter): "Flash! Lowr;s reports trhat todayh was another 90% down-day, rhw rhird this week! Unbewlievable." The 84-year old R man usually has a calm demeanor, but was obviously flustered, like most of us, by the voracity of the bear.

With global equities falling off a cliff, the MSCI World Index has been down every day for the past six days, plunging by a staggering 17.7% since the beginning of the month. The corresponding figure for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index is 20.1% in the red.

Yesterday viewed the third largest points decline (-679) and 14th largest percentage decline (-7.3%) for the Dow Jones Industrial Average since its inception in 1896. Five of the ten largest point declines in history have so far occurred in September and October this year.

Source: Plexus Asset Management (based on data from I-Net Bridge and Dow Jones Indexes)

I have added a month-to-date column to the performance tables in order to reflect the past few days' action. As I am still on a business visit in Europe, I will let the numbers speak for themselves without further comment.

I am leaving you with these words from friend Paul Kedrosky (Infectious Greed): "If this kind of fear we're seeing in the equity markets doesn't speedily turn into some sort of bottom on the market I genuinely don't know what will. Truly.

"Of course, in a sense it doesn't matter. The damage has been done. The global banking system is a mess, like a patient that has been poked by too many interns and fed (no pun intended) too many experimental medicines. It's impossible to know any more whether it's the illness or the medicines that are hurting things here. And even if we have jury-rigged a semi-functional banking system again, the rapid contraction of the real economy is set to feed back into the financial system, causing more credit problems. The effects will be vicious.

"I am trying very hard to look through all of this to see what things look like on the other side. And I can see faint outlines, for sure, but that other shore still seems awfully far away." My sentiments exactly.

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Prieur du Plessis

Author: Prieur du Plessis

Dr Prieur du Plessis

Dr Prieur du Plessis

With 25 years' experience in investment research and portfolio management, Dr Prieur du Plessis is one of the most experienced and well-known investment professionals in South Africa. More than 1 000 of his articles on investment-related topics have been published in various regular newspaper, journal and Internet columns. He also published a book, Financial Basics: Investment, in 2002.

He holds the following degrees: BSc (Quantity Surveying) (Cape Town), HonsB (B & A) (cum laude) (Stellenbosch), MBA (cum laude) (Stellenbosch); and DBA (Doctor of Financial Management) (Stellenbosch).

Prieur is chairman of the Plexus group of companies, which he founded in 1995. Previously he was general manager: portfolio management at Sanlam, responsible for the management of investment portfolios with total assets in excess of $5 billion.

Plexus is a pioneer in the mutual fund industry and has achieved a number of firsts under Prieur's leadership. These include the authoritative Plexus Survey, a quarterly analysis of the consistency of the performance of unit trust management companies, the Plexus Offshore Survey, the Plexus Unit Trust Indices, and the PlexCrown Fund Ratings.

Plexus is the South African partner of John Mauldin, American author of the most widely distributed investment newsletter in the world, and also has an exclusive licensing agreement with California-based Research Affiliates for managing and distributing its enhanced Fundamental Index™ methodology in the Pan-African area.

In 2001 Prieur received the Santam/AHI Business Leader of the Year award for corporate leadership, business acumen and entrepreneurial flair. He was also profiled in the book South Africa's Leading Managers (2006). Plexus received the AHI/Old Mutual Enterprise of the Year award in 1997 and was also included in the book South Africa's Most Promising Companies (2005).

Prieur is 52 years old and lives with his wife, TV producer and presenter Isabel Verwey, and two children in Welgemoed, Cape Town. His recreational activities include long-distance running, motor cycling and reading. He belongs to the Cape Town Club, Johannesburg Country Club, Gordon's Bay Yacht Club and Swiss Social & Sports Club.

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