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One Week Later, a New World Order

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David Gaffen
Wall St Journal
Saturday, September 20, 2008

Years from now, number-crunchers looking at weekly changes in the Dow Jones Industrial Average will look at the week ending Sept. 19, 2008, and see that the Dow managed a paltry 33-point decline for this most recent five-day period.

It’s a 33-point move by way of a 1000-point swing. The exhausting roller-coaster of the last five days would have traders happy to see the weekend arrive were it not for the anticipation of more activity from federal regulators and Wall Street bankers over the weekend. It will be difficult to surpass the sinking feeling investors had this past Monday, however, when several large financial companies were teetering on the brink all at once.

Just five days and a bankruptcy, a government takeover and a shotgun merger later, the American financial system has been completely reordered, and more changes in the regulatory framework and on Wall Street are likely to come in the next few years.

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“I’ve been trading 23 years, and I can finally say this has eclipsed what I saw the week before and the day of the 1987 market crash,” says Tom Alexander, president of Alexander Trading. “I didn’t think I’d ever say that. So many things have changed so quickly, maybe even more so than 1987.”

The two-day, 800-point rally on the Dow industrials has most assuredly left traders with a sense of renewal after the crushing losses earlier in the week, but the cost is likely to be great. A temporary ban on short-selling of 799 financial issues goosed that sector, which led the way, but left Mr. Alexander wary of what’s next to come, as he judges most of this rally to be short-covering.

The last few weeks have progressed with an air of foreboding. Large fund managers weeks ago were warning that American International Group Inc. needed $15 billion to $25 billion in capital, with one saying that “they’re the one that scares me the most.” In the end, they’re the one that received the most in the way of government help — but at the highest cost, interest rates north of 11% as it currently stands.

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This article was posted: Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 4:02 am

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