The Impossible-To-Please Markets

Watching the last half-hour of trading on Wall Street today was like watching a football game when your team is ahead by a field goal, you've got the ball and you're trying to run out the clock to keep the other team from getting another chance to score.

All people wanted was for the clock to run out -- for 4 p.m. to arrive -- with the markets back in positive territory.

Though it was was not to be so -- the other team got the ball and scored the winning touchdown -- the Dow ended up closing down "only" 128 points, or 1.4 percent.

The S&P 500 closed down a little more than 1 percent and the Nasdaq actually closed up .3 percent.

All of which, these days, counts as a victory.

Especially after the Dow plunged 500 points in the moments after opening, launching a 1,015-point swing -- the most volatile trading day in the Dow's history.

Prior to the late rally, it was the worst week in the history of the Dow. Worse than the 1929 crash, worse than any other.

The markets right now seem to be responding only to expectation and hope of what may come, not reality.

The markets surged when it looked like a bailout would come from the government. Then, when the bailout became a reality, the markets tanked.

The markets cried for a rate cut and went up when it looked like they could get one. Then, when major economies around the world linked arms and actually cut rates, Wall Street shrugged.

Today, analysts were saying the last-hour rally may be attributable to this weekend's G7 summit and the hope -- the hope -- that some further coordinated global relief could come.

In short, the markets are acting like Lotharios who find their thrill in the getting, not the having, of romantic interests. It's all about the chase and the promise. Once gained, the prize inevitably disappoints.

So at least now we know what we're dealing with: A hormone-fueled, 19-year-old college kid.

-- Frank Ahrens

October 10, 2008; 4:03 PM ET  | Category:  business
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Mr. Ahrens: "The markets right now seem to be responding only to expectation and hope of what may come, not reality."

Stock prices reflect the projected value of future profit streams. The "reality" of that future is always unknown -- "expectations" are all that investors have to go on. So what exactly is the problem?

Posted by: Jason Briggeman | October 10, 2008 4:42 PM

My analysis was a bit different. "If you want to find the road to hell, look for her house." People have bad information. It's as simple as that and the ruin of the multitudes follows from there. You know better or you don't know better.

Posted by: IV | October 10, 2008 4:51 PM

Think long-term and longer-term. More is known about the future than you like to think is known. It's no accident that there hasn't been another terrorist attack on the U.S.. The reality of the future is secure because there is a lot of work being done in that direction. You don't see that progress, so you take it for granted. The losers are going to get punished and are being punished. The rest is wine, roses and romance. They don't like it very much and they complain about the losses. They want us to make it up to them. Now they want to dump it on the kids. They didn't lose all this money. Take your losses and keep your winnings. It's a free country. It's going to stay that way.

Posted by: IV | October 10, 2008 5:16 PM

If "the reality of the future is secure", and if the American investing public is a crazed 19-year-old, then there is easy money to be made by the sober adult that is Fourth Estate's private blogosphere. I see your wine, roses, and romance, and I raise you a time is a-wastin'. The game is afoot!

Posted by: Jason Briggeman | October 10, 2008 5:35 PM

"The end of 1566 brought heavy snowfalls, and as another terrible winter setteled on the charred work of the iconoclasts, plague returned." Mercator

We'll need to postpone the game and get down to serious business. It's looking like a long cold winter again. The U.S. needs to take care of the U.S. and put the chaos out of mind. We're in uncharted territory once again. Life, death and all the rest. No time for wasting or worrying about lipstick and other nonsense. It's no time for makeup.

Posted by: IV | October 10, 2008 6:39 PM

Yes, there's no lipstick on this pig.

Posted by: Madman | October 10, 2008 8:41 PM

It's funny how things work out in the end. The writers are covering the other writers and the story is about the writers being out of a job. I guess the Google ads aren't generating enough clicky money or something. It's kind of like writing each others obits. That's the point we are at. Everybody gets to prostitute each other to keep some pigs in stitches or lipstick or whatever the current nonsense today is. We're sitting back waiting to put another pig into the ground. At least you'd think some bells should ring. Nobody will send flowers because the flower shop will be dead. Then we pull your IV and you are dead too. They're hanging by a thread, ha ha. They'll look different hanging from ropes. Go private or hang in public. More losses are ahead. We've gone from burning man to burning woman and it is going to get hotter than hell next week. It Kalifornia dreaming and more pigs are headed for holes. Keep your steel sharp guys. It's so bad that it looks like Hollywood is headed for a bust. This just in: GM is paniced. Bad luck Post. It can get worse and I promise you it will. I tried.

Posted by: IV | October 11, 2008 6:45 AM

Get ready for Post Panic.
Memorize the exits. You'll need to know and you'll know when.

Posted by: IV | October 11, 2008 6:49 AM

The whole thing is out of control now. I'm in big trouble here and I wasn't born in trouble. I got a girl and she's shakin' so I hope she has conrtol of the situation, because it's going from trouble to ole double trouble for me. What are we supposed to do next? My buddy was a county controller back when things were in control. It's a hell of a show. I wish I knew! By four o'clock, I'm a dinosaur here.

Posted by: IV | October 11, 2008 9:50 AM

The football stadiums will be packed with people. The masses gazing at screens and yelling. The entire crisis is now over. All the money you lost or are about to lose is a good lesson. Now go and sin no more. Don't be concerned with the money and just keep watching the game and we'll take the money from here. Back to what I was doing now, which may or may not be as important as what you are doing.

Posted by: Post Revolution | October 11, 2008 5:21 PM

No reservations
It reminds me of an old story about a bad winter when the Indians were stealing out of the reservation to beg. One of the girls came to the back door of an Irish home -- and was told by the woman of the house: "Go back to your own country."

Posted by: Post Panic | October 13, 2008 5:44 AM

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