Audit Notes: The Market Crashes, The Market Bounces Back

Let me give some rare Audit props to CNBC’s Jim Cramer for his coverage during the stock-market crash today. As far as I can tell, he was the first one to point out the discrepancies in the Procter & Gamble “prints,” which early reports—and let me emphasize the “early” part—say may have had a critical factor in the panic selling (if machines can panic).

Cramer was calm and collected, pointing out as I quote him on Twitter live, that:

The machines failed… it obviously broke down.

It may well turn out that Cramer helped calm a panic.

Felix Salmon explains how the market can go “completely insane” in ten minutes:

In any case, whether the trades actually happened or not, they were reported to the exchanges, and were immediately reflected in the Dow, which remember is an average and not an index. If P&G is off 14 points, and the Dow’s divisor is 0.132319125, then that one trade in itself wipes 100 points off the Dow in a matter of seconds.

The timing of that 100-point fall could not have been worse: stocks had started selling off about five minutes earlier, and so the 100-point drop came into a market which was already getting jittery and panicked. The velocity and severity of that drop in the Dow immediately triggered stop-loss selling in the market more generally, which then started feeding on itself: even as P&G’s share price was recovering, bids were falling away rapidly in the other 29 Dow components, and at one point the Dow was down just a hair short of 1,000 points on the day.

— This is what’s going on in the backdrop: A deepening sovereign-debt panic/crisis in Europe. The FT’s Alphaville:

A disappointing week for bullish investors got worse today as it became clear that the credit market was in the midst of its most severe correction since the early months of 2009. The positive feedback loop between states and their banking sectors has re-emerged, and is having a seismic impact on the broader market.

— I was glad to see’s News Hub live-video show up at one point during the meltdown providing a nice respite from CNBC and Bloomberg and all that. But I was disappointed that it didn’t last long.

The Journal’s Zac Zach Seward corrected me on Twitter, pointing out that News Hub did indeed go live because of the breaking news. That’s great, but I was disappointed to see it was live for an all-too-brief few minutes. It’s an opportunity that was (at least partially) missed, but one I expect won’t be next time.

The Journal is on to something with News Hub. I don’t watch it much, but when I do, it actually works. Let’s just say that many Web-video attempts don’t.

I think News Hub is a huge opportunity for the Journal.

— You’re going to be hearing a lot about high-frequency trading in the coming weeks. Even a market fundamentalist like the Journal’s Evan Newmark says today’s events give him pause:

Of course, the bigger question will be not what caused the panic – but what, if anything, should be done about it.

As a believer in free markets, I think it is both useless and harmful to constrict computerized trading. But on days like today, it really puts that belief to the test.

Tomorrow is another story.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.