Social Media Steps Up Where Traditional Media Falls Short on President’s Day

By: Tom Grisafi Last Updated: February 21, 2011

indiana-grain-white.jpgWhile much of the traditional 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 in the streets, a clear indication that dictator Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year reign of autocratic authority may soon wind to a halt.

A major concern resulting from the uncertainty over Libya's political future is Libya’s economy, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, is deeply rooted 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 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.

The VDAX-NEW volatility index, a barometer of investor anxiety, lifted 7.4%, touching its highest level since the beginning of February, CNBC reported.

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 directly from the Middle East. On Monday, major media outlets even began piggybacking on social media reports and insights to meaningfully supplement their otherwise incomplete and under-staffed coverage of market conditions and the underlying problems driving the volatility.

Late Sunday, in fact, 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 press has since picked up on the report, which traces back to Middle East insiders posting information exclusively to social media platforms.

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