There I was, peaceably trying to talk yet another client CEO out of machine-gunning his entire staff, painting his private parts blue, and sprinting down Broadway screaming "The End is Near!" when I began to notice an annoying flashing red bar at the top of my Bloomberg news feed screen. In rapid succession, I learned from sequential break-in alerts that the Dow Jones Industrial average, which had spent most of the day flopping up and down like an epileptic fish, was at that very moment flopping up and down ... like an epileptic fish.
Without exaggerating too much, I swear I saw the following messages blaring intermittently across my screen during the final ninety minutes of trading:
DOW SHAVES LOSS TO 70 POINTS AT 2:40 PM
DOW HEADFAKES, BLOWS RASPBERRY, AND PLUNGES 240 POINTS AT 3:00 PM
DANCING AND SINGING AS DOW ERASES 200 POINT PLUNGE AT 3:10 PM
PISSING AND MOANING AS DOW DIPS 125 POINTS AT 3:30 PM
DOW FLAT AT 3:40 PM; MARKET YAWNS
DOW UP 120 POINTS AT 3:50 PM: JOY IN MUDVILLE
DOW CLOSES UP 172 POINTS: PAULSON KISSES BERNANKE IN OVAL OFFICE; BUSH OFFICIATES AT WEDDING
What the hell was that? A test of the Bloomberg Emergency Broadcast System?
I mean, sheesh, we have seen bigger intraday swings in the market for, oh, about 32 of the last 24 trading days, fer chrissakes. Why did we get a seizure-inducing blow-by-blow account this afternoon?
Now a meaner and more paranoid person than me might describe the panicky news bulletins as suspiciously timed to coincide with the New York City Council vote on extending Mayor Bloomberg's term limit to three terms from the current two. He has asked for this extension because he wants to run again and grace our fair city with his calming presence during what he is calling an unprecedented financial and metropolitan crisis.
But I am a trusting and magnanimous soul, so I will resist a similar urge to see tiny, devious, politically ambitious billionaires lurking behind every false alarm. Instead, I expect it was just some poor young intern, newly appointed to the market desk after getting fired one week into his Lehman Brothers' analyst training program, who got a little carried away with his newfound power to enthrall and terrify the markets.
But really, Bloomberg, cut it the hell out.
Leaving aside the possibility that you may have triggered grand mal seizures in about ten thousand traders, investors, and bankers with your damnable flashing red panic alerts this afternoon, the minute-by-minute updates you delivered were the opposite of responsible, informative market reporting. The market is jumpy and panicky enough without some knucklehead in the press screaming fire at every 100-point swing in the Dow. Wait for the real catastrophes to occur, then you can gibber and over-emote all you want.
I am sure you will not have to wait long.
UPDATE (24 October 2008, 9:26 am) — I take it all back. Given that Asian and European markets are pretty much crapping the bed and US market futures have plunged the daily limit this morning, I am damn glad Bloomberg tested their EBS yesterday. I am sure we will need it today.
Fair warning to epileptics, though: put on your sunglasses, or whatever, because there is going to be a shitload of flashing red alerts splattered all over your market terminals this morning.
Perhaps it was a prescient excitable monkey.
© 2008 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.