Global financial markets are so brittle that the slightest event causes huge cracks to appear. Take yesterday's news of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
The 69-year-old tyrant's demise had been long expected, and the economy of his pariah country is of virtually no consequence in the geo-financial scheme of things.
Yet Asian markets fell like a stone on fears of instability and military tension on the Korean peninsula. Sure, markets are entitled to worry about the possibility of an exchange of nuclear missiles across the 38th parallel, but in different circumstances the end of a kleptocratic communist dictator might have been viewed as a positive event by international investors.
Today, markets only want to see the downside, and for good reason. For once, global investor sentiment seems pretty much in tune with the global economic situation. Both are dire.
The problems of the West are now so well known it seems almost pointless to repeat them. The US economy has failed to respond to the trillions of dollars thrown at it since 2008, and Europe is a rolling crisis that could go into meltdown at any time.
So what of the Bric countries that were supposed to be the dynamos of growth, that helped us all out in 2008 and would surely do so again?
Take them in acronymic order. In Brazil, recent figures for third-quarter GDP showed a slowdown, raising the spectre of a technical recession if the trend continues. At that rate, Brazil will have trouble hitting the IMF target of 3.8 per cent growth this year, and next year's 3.6 per cent looks out of the question.
Russia is looking every day more like a gigantic petrol station run by the mob. After the recent anti-Putin demonstrations, it can no longer count on the one thing it had going for it in recent years - political stability. Its economy is highly geared to world oil and commodity prices, which are distinctly vulnerable in present circumstances. There is plenty of room for slippage in the IMF's 4.1 per cent target for next year.
India has just cut its growth target for the year and has woken up to the fact it has a serious problems with its trade balance, fiscal deficit and currency. Growth is still forecast to be a healthy 7.5 per cent, but that's down from 9 per cent just a few months ago.
China is the most worrying of all. Bigger in economic terms that the three other Bric countries combined, China was the real force that pulled the world out of the ditch in 2008 and 2009, and with growth forecast at 9 per cent next year, all hopes are once again pinned on it.
But some experts believe China is on the verge of succumbing to the property disease that kicked off the whole problem in the West. An eminent UAE economist recently told me after a trip to Shanghai: "It's the same smell as I got in Dubai in 2008 - the property market is beginning to rot."
Chinese property and construction, with all it implies for oil, commodities, labour markets and consumers, is probably the single most significant economic sector in the world. If it collapses, the IMF growth figures look meaningless.
Where does all this leave the Middle East? Some parts of the region (North Africa, Syria and Yemen) are in such persistent socio-political ferment as to make economic forecasting, indeed economic activity, virtually meaningless.
The Gulf countries are more stable and have acted to boost economic growth through large public-sector and infrastructure spending. But that is all dependent on the oil price. If economic slowdown causes it to drop significantly, there really is nowhere to hide.
They say the darkest hour is just before dawn, but the global economic and financial scene is so pitch black at the moment it's impossible to detect any glimmer of optimism.