While much of the tradition media and its players took a long holiday weekend in observance of President’s Day in the United States, social media was working overtime Monday morning to keep traders and investors on top of turbulent economic and political developments that could dominate markets for the remainder of the abridged work week.
Crude oil spiked 5% to $90 a barrel Monday as growing unrest in the Middle East appears poised to impact oil-producing nations, particularly Libya, Africa’s third-largest oil producer now embroiled in an uprising echoing the recent democratic revolt in Egypt.
The death toll in Libya surpassed 200 over the weekend as bloodshed continued to follow an uprising that saw an angry mob of protesters clash with Libyan security forces clashed in the streets, a clear indication that dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year reign of autocratic authority may soon wind to a halt.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Libya’s economy is broadly steeped in the oil industry, contributing to nearly 95% of the country’s export earnings and another 60% of its public-sector wages. Consequently, stock futures around the world tumbled Monday as word detailing the growing turbulence spread largely across social media channels. European shares, in particular, were impacted heavily, led downward by energy stocks like ENI and OMV, which have potentially devastating exposure to the Libyan crisis.
CNBC is reporting that that the VDAX-NEW volatility index, a barometer of investor anxiety, lifted 7.4%, touching its highest level since the beginning of February.
The emerging panic tangible in the markets today has kept no shortage of traders, analysts, and other investors on their toes. In the US, however, the President’s Day holiday made it difficult for traditional print and broadcast media outlets to provide the exhaustive and thorough real-time news coverage that the financial world depends upon in times of turmoil and global unrest.
But where traditional media lagged, social media soared, as the Twitter stream cranked out massive volumes of news and information, much of which has originated from the Middle East. On Monday, major mainstream media outlets have even begun resorting to social media reports and insight to meaningfully supplement their otherwise incomplete and under-staffed coverage of market conditions and the underlying problems driving the volatility.
Late Sunday, Facebook and Twitter may have broken a story that – while still unconfirmed – suggests Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi has fled to Venezuela to escape the swelling violence and protests that have engulfed the Arab nation. Although Libyan officials are denying this reported development, the mainstream media has since picked up on the report which traces back to Middle East insiders posting information to social media platforms.