Mid-Day Recap: Obama Reflects One Year After Lehman
With no fresh data to trade on, US equity markets took a cue from global exchanges and opened lower this morning. Leading up to the day’s key event, a speech from President Barack Obama on Wall Street, stocks inched towards positive territory, but gains were pared as Obama said some investors were “misreading” the moment and failing to learn lessons from the crisis.
“We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses,” Obama said at Federal Hall, just outside of the New York Stock Exchange. “Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences, and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall.”
Markets may not like the theme of financial reform, but trading was mixed following the President’s speech. Ninety minutes after Obama concluded, the S&P 500 was ticking up 0.13% to 1,044 and the Nasdaq was up 0.15% to 2,084, but the Dow remained down 0.08% at 9,597.
Obama was light on specific regulations, which helped keep the reaction benign. Instead, he chose the anniversary of Lehman Brother’s collapse to reflect on the economic turmoil over the past year. Comparing his comments to conditions today, one can see why markets didn’t feel any need to initiate a sell-off.
“When this administration walked through the door in January, the situation remained urgent,” Obama said. “The markets had fallen sharply; credit was not flowing. It was feared that the largest banks those that remained standing had too little capital and far too much exposure to risky loans. And the consequences had spread far beyond the streets of lower Manhattan. This was no longer just a financial crisis; it had become a full-blown economic crisis, with home prices sinking, businesses struggling to access affordable credit, and the economy shedding an average of 700,000 jobs each month.”
Massive policy interventions are allowing the economy to stabilize, Obama said, but “a return to normalcy . . . cannot lead to complacency.” As the economy improves, “some in the financial industry” are forgetting the lessons of the past year, he continued, making decisions that could hurt the nation.
As the day approaches the closing bell, investors may turn their attention to tomorrow's schedule, which offers a full menu of fresh macroeconomic indicators. See The Week Ahead for details.
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