NYT provides the first of what will likely be many scene-setters on Wall Street's weekend of fear. You really have to go back to the market crash of '87 to approach the feeling of anxiety being seen and heard today. And even that horrific trading day can't really compare to this because stocks quickly rebounded. That's not likely to happen this time around.
Dinner parties were canceled. Weekend getaways were postponed. All of Wall Street, it seemed, was on high alert. In skyscrapers across Manhattan, banking executives were holed up inside their headquarters, within cocoons of soft rugs and wood-paneled walls, desperately trying to assess their company’s exposure to the stricken Lehman. It was, by all accounts, a day unlike anything Wall Street had ever seen.
In the financial district, bond traders, anxious about how the markets would react on Monday, sought refuge in ultrasafe Treasury bills. Greenwich, Conn., that leafy realm of hedge fund millionaires and corporate chieftains, felt like a ghost town. Greenwich Avenue, which usually bustles on Sundays, was eerily quiet. A year into the financial crisis, few dreamed that the situation would spiral down so far, so fast. Only a week ago, the Bush administration took control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation’s two largest mortgage finance companies. Then, before anyone could sigh a breath of relief after that crisis, Lehman was on the brink.
While people were stunned by the near collapse of Bear Stearns in March, they were flabbergasted that Lehman, a respected firm with a 158-year history, could be brought to its knees. Many were equally shocked by the downfall of Richard S. Fuld Jr., Lehman’s chairman and chief executive. “Everyone thought Bear Stearns was a bunch of cowboys; it made sense what happened,” said another executive. “But this is the great Dick Fuld. This is not supposed to happen to Lehman Brothers.”