Interest Rate Roundup

Monday, March 17, 2008

Armageddon it ...

Is this "it?" Is this the equivalent of financial Armageddon? I mean, look at what has occurred in the past 72 hours or so ...

* A top Wall Street firm, Bear Stearns, has announced it will sell itself for a few wooden nickels and a cup of coffee. (Technically the price is $2 a share, or about $240 million, but you get the drift). The deal is being facilitated by the most aggressive market intervention on the part of the Federal Reserve in decades.

* Speaking of the Fed, it just cut the discount rate by another 25 basis points to 3.25% -- on a Sunday night, no less.

* Moreover, the Fed said it would borrowing privileges to all the primary dealers (including investment banks) that it deals with.

* The dollar is falling out of bed virtually every day, with the Japanese yen (a key barometer of risk appetite) up another 250 basis points or so this morning. Stocks have been falling sharply. Treasury bonds have been soaring. And the price of gold has vaulted solidly through $1,000 an ounce.

You could argue that when things finally hit the widespread panic stage, you're closer to the end of a financial crisis than the beginning. Historically, that has been the case. But these are truly troubling and trying times, and this crisis appears to be both more widespread and deeper than others we have faced in recent years (think Long Term Capital Management in 1998). Regardless, it's time to fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a wild market ride.


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