FAILOUT: The Masque Of The In-The-Red Death


TECH CRUNCH: The collapse of so many major financial institutions in the past year, and over the past few days especially, is hard to fathom in its enormity. Sometimes you need a good visual to put things in perspective. The New York Times has an interactive graphic up on its site that pretty much says it all. It shows that $4 trillion has been wiped off the total market capitalization of the U.S. stock market since last October. Of that, nearly $1 trillion is from the decline in the financial sector alone. MORE

EDGAR ALLAN POE: THE “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal — the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour. MORE

THE GUARDIAN: The Bush administration has reluctantly followed Britain’s lead by pumping $250 billion into shares in leading banks after a stockmarket meltdown scotched efforts to shore up confidence in the financial system. Many of Wall Street’s top banks were unwilling to take the money, fearing it would be seen as an admission of weakness, but they were given little choice by the US treasury secretary, Henry Paulson. All the banks involved will be required to curb executive pay. “Golden parachutes” for departing bosses will be banned, as will bonus greatdepression_1.jpgprogrammes that encourage excessive risk-taking. There will also be an end to tax relief for banks on payouts of more than $500,000. Banking chiefs were given little option. An insider said Paulson dictated the terms after summoning chief executives on Monday. “It wasn’t a debate.”

Buying bank shares amounts to a U-turn for Paulson, who wanted to spend a $700bn emergency fund by simply picking out distressed assets from banks’ balance sheets. He told Congress last month that “the right way to do this is not going around and using guarantees or injecting capital”, arguing that Japan had had limited success with that in the 1990s. Last week’s stock market meltdown forced a more radical approach, but Paulson made it clear that he was doing so with distaste. “Government owning a stake in any private US company is objectionable to most Americans – me included,” he said. “Yet the alternative of leaving businesses and consumers without access to financing is totally unacceptable.” The programme means the US government will be the biggest owner of banking shares in the country. MORE

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