Looking back on a roller coaster week

Lisa Napoli Mar 21, 2008

Looking back on a roller coaster week

Lisa Napoli Mar 21, 2008


Lisa Napoli: As you might imagine, this was one heck of a week to be working at a show that covers business and money.

Even though in the end, stocks actually gained about 3 percent for the week, there were a lot of anxious moments.

Everyone here at our sister program Marketplace was scrambling to tell the story:

Janet Babin: Bear Stearns traders and dealers were told this morning that they are now JP Morgan employees and their company stock, which had hit highs of $170 a share last summer, is now worth just $2 a share…

Kai Ryssdal: Six months, six rate cuts. That’s where the Federal Reserve left us today…

Stephen Beard: The dollar is still under a lot of pressure. It’s fallen this morning against both the yen and the euro…

With every action, there was a reaction. Everyone was waiting for the apocalypse — it didn’t come, but there was quite a roller coaster ride:

Ryssdal:: Bernanke speaks, Wall Street listens and thus we get the really happy music. The Dow Industrial shot up…

Ryssdal:: The Dow slid 293 points today, 2.33 percent, to close at 12,099…

Ryssdal:: The Dow popped 261 points today, 2.1 percent, to close at 12,361…

Thank God for Good Friday and a short trading week. Aside from the nervous market gazing, people were bandying about the “R” word.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson couldn’t figure out what to call the mess:

Henry Paulson: We know we’re in a sharp dow… down… uh… cline and there’s no doubt that the American people know that the economy has turned down sharply.

You’d have to be living in a cave if you didn’t, especially now.

However you describe what’s going on, everywhere this week there was debate over whether the three-quarters of a point interest rate cut by the Fed was a good idea — or large enough — and what the Bear Stearns implosion and subsequent government-subsidized fire sale to JP Morgan means in the bigger picture.

Guys like legendary Wall Street investor Jim Rogers said the markets are best left to equalize on their own:

Jim Rogers: And I really don’t like saving a bunch of guys on Wall Street so they can keep their Maseratis.

But University of Maryland economics professor Peter Morici was among those who argued that if Uncle Sam hadn’t intervened, disaster would have struck:

Peter Morici: Think of it like a city: if the water company has bad business practices, we might not have much sympathy for the stockholders and the management, but if the water company goes down, the city dies.

Just how far reaching the collapse of a venerable Wall Street institution will prove for the rest of the economy — and the rest of us — seems to require a crystal ball, which Bob Frick of Kiplinger’s confessed he didn’t have:

Bob Frick: What’s going to happen? Man, I don’t know.

Nobody does, but Frick says these sobering times are a good moment for we the people to assess what we’ve got in our own personal piggy banks.

Frick: It’s kind of like global warming. If you only think there’s a 20 percent chance that global warming’s happening, you still have take precautions.

More than ever, taking the long view seems to be the best strategy.

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