Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wall Street laying another egg?

The most famous headline in American newspaper history was printed atop the front page of Variety on Oct. 30, 1929: WALL ST. LAYS AN EGG. The US economy was in free fall and more than a decade of hard times lay ahead.

Today, news comes that Lehman Brothers, a major American investment bank, can find no buyers and will be liquidating assets and filing for bankruptcy, while Wall Street pillar Merrill Lynch, insurance giant A.I.G. and Washington Mutual, the country's largest savings and loan, are all in dire straits.

The New York Times website has a story titled "In Frantic Day, Wall Street Banks Teeter," and this comes just a week after the US government stepped in to save mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This summer the feds had to prop up Bear Stearns, another giant financial institution that went belly up.

I know little about economics, so I cannot speak to the finer points of how this happened, what it all means and when it's going to end, though I have attained some basic fluency in discussing sub-prime loans, the credit crunch and mortgage-backed securities. I'm not sure how much of a hand the federal government has in these matters as a result of the lack of regulation and oversight, but I do know that primal, green-eyed greed is likely at the heart of the problem.

No comments: