Following in Tunisia’s footsteps, Egypt’s streets have been full of protestors demanding President Mubarak to step down and end his 30 year reign. Mubarak announced early Saturday that he had asked the country’s government to resign, and pledged to install a new government with a better democracy; proclaiming to be on the side of the people, willing to respect their freedom of speech as long as they protested peacefully. However, as protests continued, curfew was broken, and government vehicles were torched, Mubarak mobilized the army to control the crowds. The White House threatened to cut off its annual aid of $1.5 billion to Egypt if security forces continued to use violence to suppress protestors.
Egypt’s Suez Canal conducts an estimated 8% of global sea trade, carrying approximately 1.8 million barrels a day of crude oil and refined petroleum in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. U.S. crude futures rose to $89.43 a barrel, up 4.4% on Friday. Investors worry that uncontrolled protests could destabilize the already volatile region, and have an even greater impact on crude prices. The CBOE volatility index (VIX), used to gauge fear in the market, jumped more than 24% Friday and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4 percent to 11,823.70 after a straight 9 week gain.
Stocks worldwide plunged the most since November, crude oil posted the biggest jump since 2009 and the dollar rose versus the euro after protesters posed the biggest challenge to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Egypt’s dollar bonds sank, pushing yields to a record.
The MSCI All-Country World Index of stocks in 45 countries lost 1.4 percent at 4:59 p.m. New York time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4 percent to 11,823.70, preventing its longest weekly winning streak since 1995. Oil futures increased 4.3 percent to $89.34. The dollar appreciated 0.9 percent to $1.3611. Yields on Egypt bonds due in 2020 surged 22 basis points to 6.51 percent. Gold futures jumped 1.7 percent, the most in 12 weeks.
Egyptian protesters clashed with police throughout the country and into the night, defying a curfew and setting fire to buildings. Mubarak imposed the curfew after tens of thousands of marchers chanted “liberty” and “change.” After U.S. markets closed, Mubarak said he asked the government to resign. The demonstrations offset data showing that growth in U.S. gross domestic product accelerated in the fourth quarter.
“The unrest in Egypt has people concerned,” said Mark Bronzo, who helps manage over $25 billion at Irvington, New York-based Security Global Investors. “When it comes to the Middle East, there’s worries the unrest is going to spread. It has negative implications for the world.”
The Dow had to close above 11,871.84 to post a ninth straight weekly gain. Before today, it had risen 1 percent this week, supported by higher-than-estimated earnings. More than 74 percent of the 183 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index that reported quarterly earnings since Jan. 10 beat the average analyst projection, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Egypt overshadowed evidence the U.S. economy, the world’s biggest, is improving. GDP expanded at a 3.2 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter, up from 2.6 percent during the prior three months, as consumer spending climbed by the most in more than four years.
Investors who pushed the Dow above 12,000 for the first time since 2008 this week may be getting ahead of themselves. It surpassed that level the past two days. More U.S. stocks are trading above their 200-day average price than any time since April, when the Dow began a 14 percent slump. The cost to insure against S&P 500 losses with options has fallen to an almost three-year low.
The Dow may have surged too fast following its more than 2,000-point jump since August even as analysts forecast a third straight year of profit growth for the S&P 500, said James Investment Research Inc.’s Tom Mangan and BB&T Wealth Management’s Walter “Bucky” Hellwig. Mangan and BGC Partners LP’s Michael Purves see signs investors are too optimistic about the next few months.
Shares of Ford Motor Co. plunged 13 percent as the automaker said profit slid 79 percent. Amazon.com Inc. declined 7.2 percent after saying earnings may miss analysts’ projections. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, which measures the cost of insurance against losses in U.S. stocks, jumped 24 percent, the most since May.
The NYSE Arca Airline Index lost 4.3 percent after oil jumped. Any disruption to Middle East oil supplies “could actually bring real harm,” U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on a conference call.
The Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas, is located in Egypt. One million to 1.6 million barrels a day of oil and refined products moved north to Europe and other developed economies in 2008 and 2009, according to the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy Department.
Microsoft Corp. had the biggest drop in the Dow, retreating 3.9 percent, after a shortfall in Windows revenue raised concerns about demand. The slump drove the Nasdaq Composite Index to a 2.5 percent decline, the most since August. The S&P 500 fell 1.8 percent, the biggest decrease since Aug. 11.
The dollar and Swiss franc advanced the most in three weeks against the euro as a day of clashes in Egypt between police and protesters spurred demand for the safety of the currencies. Egypt’s pound traded at an almost six-year low against the American currency. Fitch Ratings revised the Middle East nation’s outlook to negative.
The Swiss franc advanced 1.4 percent to 1.2806 per euro. Egypt’s currency traded at 5.8575 per dollar after touching the weakest level since January 2005 yesterday. Turkey’s lira sank as much as 2.1 percent to 1.6171 per dollar, falling along with the currencies of other nations near Egypt. Israel’s shekel declined as much as 1.8 percent to 3.7141.
Treasuries rose, pushing two-year yields to a seven-week low of 0.54 percent. Yields on 30-year bonds had reached a nine- month high of 4.64 percent following the report showing U.S. GDP growth accelerated.
Gold futures for April delivery rose 1.7 percent to $1,341.70 an ounce, the biggest gain since Nov. 4. The metal climbed to a record $1,432.50 on Dec. 7.