Embracing Chaos, Living With Uncertainty

Living with a manic depressive economy, New York Magazine coverEvery morning at 9:00 AM New York time I call the Dow for the day - down 300, up 450, or something like that. My market call is based purely on a “feeling,” like picking a horse because you like its name. Recently, it’s rare that we see the market go up two days in a row, so if it is up one day chances are it will give it all back, and then some, the following day. I find my “method” to be more accurate than most of the market prognosticators, who seem to have collectively thrown up their hands to say “Your guess is as good as mine.”

The New York magazine cover story by Kurt Andersen captures the mood of the city – fear, uncertainty, deep foreboding that as bad as it seems it is only going to get worse. I was talking to a top-tier real estate broker/appraiser in Manhattan (he appraised Madonna’s apartment) who is convinced that the bottom of the New York real estate market will drop with a sickening thud beginning January 1, 2009, when a temporary impediment to foreclosures will be eliminated. He foresees 150,000 foreclosures in New York State, with 10% of them in the city.

The economy dominates talk at parties, work, everywhere; even if it not spoken you can feel it. What else are we going to talk about? Theatre, clothes, restaurants all cost money and nobody is spending a dime they don’t have to – including our PR clients. Coverage of finance and the implications of the sour global economy dominates all media these days. If you are not directly addressing the economy, offering usable insight and advise (and what can you really say – even an unusually sedate “Mad Money” Cramer says get out of the market) then reporters won’t bother with you.

Oddly, this has been a unifying time for Americans because the pain cuts across demographic, geographic and cultural boundaries. The Presidential race almost seems like a sidebar to the main story – how do we survive this and what will life be like on the other side?

Today Wachovia reports a record-setting $23.9 billion loss for the 3rd quarter, with tens of billions expected to be written off in successive quarters. The numbers don’t compute anymore, superlatives fail. How much shock can you take until you become numb? I think we are about to find out.

So seldom do we motley millions all think and talk about the same thing at the same time—let alone two great big things, let alone intensely and continually for weeks at a time. Welcome to the extraordinary fall of 2008. As the imploded financial industry is nationalized, and we prepare to elect—can it really be?—an African-American intellectual the next president, New Yorkers are in a kind of breathless, Twittery mind meld about matters of huge historic consequence. Because Wall Street is (excuse the expression) ground zero for the present cataclysm, we are probably experiencing financial vertigo more acutely than most of our fellow Americans. – Kurt Andersen, New York magazine


  1. Darcy says:

    Well said, Mark. It’s good to see these dual issues (the Wall Street collapse and the presidential race) evaluated. I don’t know what it’s like at parties and gatherings outside NY right now, but I know the financial issues are impacting everyone everywhere. Some might not realize it yet because they don’t follow everything blow by blow as we do here. The overall numbers do indicate general fascination with the presidential race and expected record turnout of voters.

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