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Looking back from 2016

Written by Charles Hugh Smith:

April 1, 2016: In an unprecedented move, Dow Jones announced that it was suspending its iconic Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 large-cap stocks "due to lack of interest." The move caught the mainstream media by surprise, but those who had watched public interest and participation in the stock market dwindle in recent years expressed little shock.

"Now that everybody knows it's all rigged, that it's just a bunch of computers skimming from each other and a handful of daytraders, what's the point?" commented one former employee of a trading desk.

The few still employed on Wall Street were equally circumspect. "There's nobody here except a few techs running the machines," one lamented. "A couple of years ago guys were killing themselves because they'd lost a lot of money. Now we're dying of boredom."

"It's really rather surreal," one former financial journalist marveled. "The big trading desks are still making money 400 days in a row, the Federal Reserve is still pumping money into stocks, but nobody cares any more. Once they realized the market no longer had anything to do with the real economy or their future, they lost interest."

Though many blame the Global Crash of 2015 for the loss of faith in stocks, others say the erosion dated back to at least 2014, when the F.B.I. revealed its investigation into high-frequency trading (HFT), and the perception that the market was rigged went mainstream.

"There were plenty of buy-side analysts who said, 'OK, the market's rigged, so that means it's safe to pile in,'" the journalist noted. "But the Global Crash of 2015 mooted that guarantee."

A former financial analyst who now grows organic lettuce for a living observed, "As soon as all the suckers, and by that I don't mean Ma and Pa Kettle, I mean the pension funds and insurance companies, had their heads handed to them in the crash, it was game over. When the Fed started openly buying equities, the funds that had survived the crash didn't jump back in."

According to a well-connected observer who requested anonymity, public disgust extends beyond the rigged market to everyone who aided and abetted the scheme. "The F.B.I. investigates for two years but can't find anyone to prosecute. What does that say about our system of so-called justice? It's as rigged as the market."

Rating of financial news programs plummeted as the public lost interest, and most were cancelled due to poor ratings. Jim Cramer still hosts a web-based program touting stocks but the audience appears to be mostly hecklers who lost money following his "stay long and strong" advice just before the crash wiped out everyone who believed the Fed had their back.

One former Wall Streeter waxed nostalgic for the good old days when the stock market was still viewed as the road to legitimate riches. "It was really something else," he mused. "People believed the hype, they believed all the phony BS about the market being a level playing field and the Fed having their back, and they gave us their money willingly, even when it was obvious it was just a big embezzlement scheme."
 
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