A determined recovery from an unforgiveable day
Global finance is in the front line of the campaign against terrorism. The markets have so far proved resilient, thanks to a massive injection of liquidity by central banks and a brief interlude when a spirit of cooperation broke out among Wall Street rivals. Shoring up global confidence and leaning on international banks to line up for an economic war to starve terrorists of funds are now Washington's financial priorities. Broker-dealers made hay in the flurry of securities selling. But nothing can disguise the fact that the world economy and investment banking were in a parlous state even before September 11. The fog that surrounds the political and military outcome has added new uncertainty to recovery prospects.
The investment banker finishes the last forkful of his fish, leans back in his chair, plants his fists on the table edge and, gazing into the middle distance, appears to reflect. "I probably shouldn't tell you this," he says after a short pause, "but this firm had its best day ever for sales commissions yesterday. Not its best day this year," he hastens to add. "I mean the best day in its history."
Ten days have passed since the destruction and mass murder at the World Trade Centre in New York and in many small ways the natural order in the financial world is starting to reassert itself. Investment bankers are competitive, ruthless and driven by the desire to make money. Rather than panicking because world stock markets have fallen sharply since the attack - the same markets that they were encouraging investors to buy into until recent months - equity traders are delighted to be earning commissions on huge volumes in share trading as those same investors scurry to get out.