Thursday, May 06, 2010

When Wall Street breaks

During September 2008, I almost came to regard three-digit Dow swings as normal. But seeing them happen in seconds isn't normal, and 2:50 pm this afternoon was a pretty wild time to be in the middle of a financial newsroom. In a blink, you've got the Dow flinging itself from almost 11,000 to below 10,000, and stocks zipping crazily in both directions: Accenture (ACN) rocketing from $40 to 1 cent while Sotheby's (BID) zooms from $30 to $100,000.

And what was I doing this evening, after watching an afternoon of Wall Street chaos? Going to see Enron, which I got tickets to last month for David's birthday. Talk about timing. High finance explained with lasers and dinosaurs! Now I'm gonna be grumpy if we don't get to use lasers and dinosaurs tomorrow at work when we try to explain The Great Market Crash of 2:47 pm.

I see that the exchanges and market regulators are planning to void trades in 286 stocks from 2:40-3pm that swung more than 60% either way. That takes care of the wildly crazy prices, like Philip Morris plunging from $48 to $2 or EQIX flying from $95 to $999,999. But it leaves standing some of the trades that really hammered the Dow, like P&G falling 37% in seconds and 3M sinking 21% for a blink. Tomorrow's open should be dramatic.

Meanwhile, in financial news involving vastly smaller sums, I have a new outlet for some of my personal-finance writing: For the next few months, I'll be filing a weekly dispatch to Make Love Not Debt. It was one of the first pf blogs to catch my eye when I started Birds & Bills years ago; while I get pretty solipsistic in my ramblings here, MLND has always been finance and relationships. It'll be fun to shift my focus and think in that vein for a bit. Plus, like all journalists, I've realized the only sure way to get me to actually write is to hit me with a deadline. Generally one that's two or three days past.

So hop on over and check out my first MLND column, on the two-income pothole:

Keeping separate bank accounts with your spouse or similarly intertwined partner has a whole spate of logistical issues attached. How do you split the bills? How do you make sure none slip through the cracks? How closely do you track your partner's finances – and how do you ensure you'll have access in an emergency?

There's also the philosophical issues. Why are the accounts separate, and do you both have the same reasons, or at least understand and respect your partner's rationale if it's different?