At 11:32 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) broke.
The NYSE is the largest stock exchange in the world. Investors couldn’t buy or sell stocks on the NYSE for nearly four hours. Trading resumed at 3:10 p.m.
The NYSE’s management blamed a technical glitch. It assured investors that the outage wasn’t due to a cyberattack on NYSE computers.
It was the worst malfunction of a major stock exchange since the “Flash Freeze” of 2013, when stocks stopped trading on the Nasdaq for over three hours.
• The NYSE outage added to a crazy week…
Earlier this week, we told you that the Shanghai stock market had plummeted 28% since June 12. It was the worst crash in Chinese stocks in two decades. We also showed you how Chinese stocks are extremely volatile. They go through huge booms and huge busts.
On Thursday, Chinese stocks switched from bust to boom. After dropping a stunning 19% in one week, the Shanghai soared 11% on Thursday and Friday… its biggest two-day rally since September 2008 during the global financial crisis.
We’re not impressed. We pointed out yesterday that the Chinese government has halted trading on 51% of all mainland Chinese stocks. A rally in a market where investors can’t sell 51% of stocks is totally meaningless.
• Switching gears, a nuclear deal with Iran could send oil prices lower…
Iran and six world powers (the US, the UK, Germany, China, France, and Russia) are trying to resolve a 12-year dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
The deal on the table would allow Iran to enrich uranium for power generation only. The US and its allies don’t want Iran to build a nuclear bomb.
The two sides have been negotiating for almost two years. They were hoping to reach a deal by today, but now the BBC reports that negotiations will likely continue over the weekend.
Reuters says a deal “could be the biggest milestone in decades towards easing hostility between Iran and the United States.”
A deal could also cause oil prices to drop…
Right now, Iran is under strict sanctions. The United Nations won’t let countries sell weapons to Iran. And the European Union won’t buy oil or natural gas from Iran.
As a result, Iran’s oil exports have fallen from 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2011 to just 1.2 million bpd today. In January 2013, Iran’s oil minister said oil sanctions were costing his country between $4 and $8 billion per month.
Iranian officials say oil exports could nearly double, to 2.3 million bpd, if the two sides agree on a nuclear deal and the US and its allies lift the sanctions.
Iran is the sixth-biggest producer of oil in the world, and it has the fourth-largest oil reserves. If it doubles its exports, it will add over 1 million bpd to an already oversupplied market.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel of 12 oil-producing countries that includes Iran, is already producing 31.28 million bpd. That’s its highest rate of production since August 2012.
The price of oil is down 49% since June 2014 and 12% in just the last month.
• Back in the US, a huge company is raising prices…
Starbucks (SBUX), the largest coffee chain in the US, just announced it will raise prices on most of its drinks by 5 to 20 cents.
Starbucks isn’t raising prices because coffee is getting more expensive. The price of coffee beans has dropped 44% since last October.
Instead, it’s increasing prices to pay for rising wages and rent prices. And it’s not the only big company dealing with rising costs…
Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, announced in February that it would give raises to 500,000 of its lowest-paid employees. T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Gap are also planning similar wage hikes.
For now, rising wages aren’t causing prices to rise much. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), a government measure of inflation, showed a 0% inflation rate in May.
But we prefer to use data from the Billion Prices Project (BPP) to measure inflation. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management created the BPP. It collects the prices of 5 million items sold by hundreds of retailers in order to estimate inflation.
Right now, the BPP also says inflation is low. This chart compares the CPI to the PriceStats Inflation Gauge, an inflation index calculated using data from the BPP:
According to both the CPI and BPP, prices only rose by about 0.2% from May 2014 to May 2015.
When we do get meaningful inflation, it’ll likely show up in the BPP before it does in the CPI. We’ll be watching both… and we’ll tell you when we start to see inflation.