Sunday, November 16, 2008

Send in the clowns

Given the turmoil roiling the economy and the shennaigans of the folks at AIG amongst others it sure seemed apropriate to have a clown ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange the other day.



If you've thought Wall Street is being run by a bunch of clowns, yesterday you were right on the money.
Members of the Big Apple Circus took the reins of financial power by ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

The exchange invited Grandma the Clown and Master of Ceremonies Carrie Harvey to both honor the circus' 31st season of entertainment and perhaps bring a bit of Main Street levity to traders battered by a collapsing market.

After ringing the bell, Harvey and Grandma wandered the floor trying to spread joy and merriment, placing funny red noses on exchange officials to touch the funny bones of even the most shaken traders.

But by the end of a roller-coaster day of trading that saw the Dow Jones industrial average whipsaw from 300 points down to just above even and then right back down to finish off 337 points, good humor was in short supply.

"What can I say? The market ended down nearly 350 points. Even the Big Apple Circus clowns couldn't help," said Eckhart & Co. trader Peter Costa as he trudged off the floor.
Walter London, a trader with Coffey Inc., said he was so "depressed" that even a clown's mirth could do nothing to help.
"There was no lighter mood on the floor. Living this day in and day out is not fun," he said.

Some analysts said the attempt by the NYSE to send in clowns to brighten the grim mood was childish.
"It's like they're trying to be the Make-A-Wish Foundation, cheering up a terminally ill child," said Bill King, chief market strategist of M. Ramsey King Securities in Chicago. "It's a great metaphor for a financial system that has become a joke.
"It's great to try to create some levity, but there is definitely some unintended symbolism here."
Despite the gloom and doom, the circus members said they considered the experience an honor.
"It was the most phenomenal experience," Harvey said. "I rang the bell. It was so magical. I just felt privileged to be there.
"The power behind it - you are really ringing the bell, and it is loud," she said. "And I speak for Grandma as well."

By the time the market closed, all efforts at amusement were abandoned when officials - in a more traditional approach - tapped executives from the employee-management company Manpower to ring the closing bell.