This week is on track to be the seventh in a row that U.S. stock markets close lower, which would be the longest stretch in about 20 years. On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 1,100 points — bringing the total shrinkage in the U.S. stock market to about $1.5 trillion — and continued to tumble downward on Thursday. In a very real sense, the world is slowing down — so much so that a recession is a very realistic scenario. The pandemic economy, lubricated by some $5 trillion in stimulus and cheap credit, is transitioning into something much more difficult to navigate. Not only are central banks deliberately damming up the flow of money in an attempt to keep prices from rising out of control, the actual shipping and manufacturing of goods — the stuff that that money would buy — is being held back by one shutdown after another in China. There’s also the spike in energy prices thanks, in no small part, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the U.S. and Europe’s subsequent banishing of most things Putin-related from the global financial system. If the degree of interconnection can feel overwhelming, that’s because — well, it is.
This might be the point where you expect some answer as to when this might come to an end. For that, I’m going to disappoint you. The thing is, what’s happening in the world right now is a kind of global reordering, capitalism’s version of pandemic soul-searching. The decade-plus after the 2008 financial crisis was Silicon Valley’s time. Of course, there was Apple, the true giant of the computer world — a company that makes so many things people actually buy that when it discontinues a 22-year-old product, it’s a media event. Then, there were the bajillion Ubers out there, so-called disruptors that lost more money on vague business plans that relied on a fantasy of their benign, venture-capital-subsidized monopoly.