[WSJ] The financial crisis that began 13 months ago has entered a new, far more serious phase.
Lingering hopes that the damage could be contained to a handful of financial institutions that made bad bets on mortgages have evaporated. New fault lines are emerging beyond the original problem — troubled subprime mortgages — in areas like credit-default swaps, the credit insurance contracts sold byInc. and others. There’s also a growing sense of wariness about the health of trading partners.
The consequences for companies and chief executives who tarry — hoping for better times in which to raise capital, sell assets or acknowledge losses — are now clear and brutal, as falling share prices and fearful lenders send troubled companies into ever-deeper holes. This weekend, such a realization led John Thain to sell the century-oldCorp. Each episode seems to bring government intervention that is more extensive and expensive than the previous one, and carries greater risk of unintended consequences.
Expectations for a quick end to the crisis are fading fast. « I think it’s going to last a lot longer than perhaps we would have anticipated, » Anne Mulcahy, chief executive ofCorp., said Wednesday.
The U.S. financial system resembles a patient in intensive care. The body is trying to fight off a disease that is spreading, and as it does so, the body convulses, settles for a time and then convulses again. The illness seems to be overwhelming the self-healing tendencies of markets. The doctors in charge are resorting to ever-more invasive treatment, and are now experimenting with remedies that have never before been applied. Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, walking into a hastily arranged meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday night to brief them on the government’s unprecedented rescue of AIG, looked like exhausted surgeons delivering grim news to the family.
Maj 21 sept:
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