Brace yourself for non-stop coverage of the thwarted plot to blow up multiple airlines between Britain and the United States (California was one of the reported targets). Most chilling quote so far comes from Paul Stephenson, the deputy metropolitan police commissioner for London. He told reporters: "We are confident that we have stopped an attempt to create mass murder on an unimaginable scale." Quite a few business-related angles to follow:
Financial markets: All signs point to a very shaky day. The European exchanges fell on the news, with airline stocks taking the biggest hit. The U.S. markets opened lower, although not that much lower. Keep an eye on the action as the trading day unfolds. If emotions run their course and there are no signs of any other suspects on the loose, the markets might stabilize. A few good earnings reports wouldn't hurt.
LAX: The runway closure and the computer and radar snafus were child's play compared with what's in store for travelers over the next few days. Vacationers are pretty much stuck, but business travelers might decide to postpone their plans or opt for the teleconference arrangements that became common in the days after 9/11. It's still early here, but long lines were already being reported back east.
Tourism: It's already been a very strong summer in L.A. and it's hard to believe that travel plans will suddenly be cancelled. But watch out for international traffic, especially from Asia. This sector took a huge hit after 9/11 and took the longest to recover. Also, don't be surprised to see more airfare discounts in the days ahead (United launched a mini-fare war earlier this week). The airlines want to make sure their planes stay full.
Hollywood: After being inundated with scary news coverage today and tomorrow, will moviegoers really be in the mood this weekened to see Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center"? It's a decent bet that the opening weekend will be below expectations. Terrorist-related themes that remind viewers of 9/11 remain a dicey area for studios and networks.
Security devices: There is now a market for devices that can detect whatever substances were to be used by that group of terrorists. Some company is going to develop such a product (if it hasn't already been done). Stocks of companies that specialize in airport security systems should do quite nicely.
Newspapers: The L.A. Times managed to catch the first arrests in London in a front-page story, but needless to say, there's nothing in the other major papers about the terrorist plot - just another reminder that the world often moves too fast for the print product to keep up. Web site usage will skyrocket throughout the day and provide one more reason to invest in online properties.