America's Financial Crisis

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America's Financial Crisis

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We have all been watching the turmoil on Wall Street over the past few days and wondering how far it will go in affecting America’s role in the world. This is a day by day crisis that has not reached the bottom. It is likely other financial institutions will fail or merge with others. It is clear that Wall Street is in its biggest crisis since the years following 1929. How far will it go? Hard to tell. Greed and mismanagement are coming home to roost. Those in the board room and corner suite at Lehman Brothers got caught napping. They did not see the handwriting on the wall. President Bush keeps insisting the fundamentals of the American economy are sound. He may be right. While this is a major crisis there are things that make it different from other times of crisis. The economy has slowed but not to the point of recessionary numbers. Interest rates are low. There is a liquidity crisis but it seems relegated to at risk financial institutions. That is, “we aren’t going to loan you the money we have because you are a bad risk”. Stratfor has a moderate approach to the crisis in this report today: " The only thing we can conclude from the data is that a lot of companies in the financial industry are in deep trouble, that the financial system itself is in much less trouble than this industry, and that the economy is doing fairly well, considering that it is probably heading into recession. The recessions of 1991 and 2001 came and went, and life went on. In spite of the horrific headlines in the press we see no reason to change that view. We would hate to be an employee of a brokerage house right now, but the United States has weathered much worse and it seems to us that the international balance of power will not shift. Certainly, if the numbers change dramatically, then so will our view. But we are struck by how much worse the numbers would have to get for us to re-evaluate our fundamental view." How far this will spread to the international markets is yet to be seen. It is one more sign that America has troubles that others will need to steer away from.