September 19th, 2008
12:18 PM GMT
LONDON, England – If I had a pound for every time that someone has asked me to explain what "short selling" is over the past 24 hours then I'd be able to help the banks out of their "toxic" debt problem. I wrote at the start of the week when Lehman Brothers collapsed, despite frantic efforts to save it, that I'd never known a weekend like it.
Well, it's now Friday and I can firmly say that I've never known a week like it either.
Who'd have thought that in the space of just a few days we'd see two Wall Street icons effectively disappear; one of the world's biggest insurers being rescued by the US government; plummeting share prices; Britain's biggest lender forced into merging with a smaller rival; central banks riding to the rescue of a paralyzed financial system; a ban on "short selling" in Britain and the U.S.; and American authorities announcing a plan to rid banks of their debt?
I don't know about you, but this white-knuckle, thrill-a-minute week has left me completely exhausted.
But here's the thing.
Thanks to the relief inspired by news of the bailout plan - as I write at lunchtime in London - European share indices have bounced back to more or less where they were first thing on Monday morning.
Imagine this: a city trader has been away on a seven-day desert island vacation, away from phones and news media (unlikely I know – these people are permanently wired in, but bear with me on this.)
They will arrive back this coming Monday to find that colleagues are battle wearied and bruised, that associates have fallen by the wayside and that the financial landscape has completely changed.
But they'd also find that, eerily, share prices are pretty much just where they left them.
Surely they could be forgiven for thinking: "Did I miss something?"
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