Financial Market Update-Wednesday, Sept. 24

Wall Street needs plumbers? That plumbing metaphor came up again during testimony today about the financial crisis. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke called credit markets the “plumbing” of the U.S. economy this morning before Congress, warning of the dire consequences if consumers and businesses turn on an empty tap. By the end of the trading day, the market seems to have said, nice going Mr. Buffet, but things are still scary otherwise, especially with Congress dickering over the bailout. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 29 points, down 0.3 per cent.As CPNnoted last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson talked of the “clogging of our financial markets.” The question now: will Congress buy the Drano that Bernanke and Paulson are selling? Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs Group is on a roll. Yesterday, the nation’s most famed investor, Warren Buffet, told a surprised market that he was buying $5 billion worth of “perpetual preferred” shares in the former investment bank turned regular bank holding company — shares that pay a 10 percent dividend (he’s not a famed investor for nothing). Today, according to Bloomberg, Goldman plans to raise $5 billion in a stock offering, more than double its original goal. Other news outlets are reporting that the FBI is investigated four formerly major financial institutions–Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and Lehman–for potential fraud. The plot just keeps getting thicker. And thicker. The New York Times reports that Sen. John McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, was paid $15,000 a month for nearly three years by Freddie Mac, though it seems to have been mostly a retainer, since he didn’t do much actual work for the company. Nice work if you can get it, but it’s coming back to haunt his boss. All together the Wall Street meltdown has not been good news for Sen. McCain’s efforts to win the White House. When the history of the 2008 election is written, it may be called his “September surprise.” Meanwhile, Nomura is creating a $1 billion pool for the 2,500 former employees of Lehman Brothers’ European and Middle Eastern operations as an incentive from them to stick around. The money will be paid out over two years, and total about $200,000 per employee per year. That’s a waft of fresh air in an industry likely to shed workers by the bushel.

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