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Archive for August 16th, 2007

narrative arc

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(found here…)

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Written by adswithoutproducts

August 16, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Posted in form, markets

form and the breaking of form

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The word “trope” is one of those little dialectic-at-a-standstill words that we literary types love: it means both what it means and the opposite of what it means at once. Etymologically, it is a “turn,” a change of direction. But we use it to indicate something static, sclerotic – something rigidified into a cliché, a token for thoughtless circulation. Combined, we get an all-too-expected dynamism, a movement that follows the path of expectation such that we wonder whether “movement” was the right word from the start. This is why we love to use the word to describe the narrative form bad movies – a trope of the horror genre etc. Something happens, but it is the same thing that always happens…

On CNBC’s main page, there are three columns: from the left, we have “Top Stories” (which looks like an RSS feed, with the top story blurb previewed, then we have a column of stock indexes and their red or green arrows, and finally a column (that you ignore) of ads for upcoming tv shows and links to video content.

I am interested, right now in the first column, the News one, and in particular the little snippet preview of the top story, which during US business hours is almost always about the performance of the market right now. I’ve kept a little text document on my desktop where I clip the previews in as I read them. Here’s a few that I’ve compiled over the past few days:

Stocks turned lower again after rallying on the Fed’s move to add more money to the banking system. “You had a psychological bounce off of 13,000 (in the Dow),” said Patrick Fay of DA Davidson. “Personally I think its being overdone and every talking head is talking about the end of the world but the reality is that it’s not.”

Stocks remained lower in the final hour of trading but were well off their worst levels of the day. “Ultimately the system is strong and the ECB and Fed are there to support the market if need be,” said Jason Trennert of Strategas Research Partners.

Stocks fell to the lowest levels of the day amid anxiety about the credit markets and a weak earnings outlook from Wal-Mart. “We’re seeing a mini-panic, which is symptomatic of a market that is finding a bottom,” said Michael Metz of Oppenheimer.

Stocks seesawed as declines in basic materials shares offset gains in financials as the Federal Reserve added more funds to the banking system. “I think we might have a little bit more on the downside but we might be close (to a bottom),” said Steve Massocca, co-chief executive officer at Pacific Growth Equities. “I think it’s a good time to put money to work.”

It is as if they are written by a computer, compiled by an algorithm like the one that organizes the Google News page. Bleak data followed by semi-optimistic quote from a trader or analyst. It is just a trivial thing, a stylebook efficiency that keeps the jobber who generates the news bubbles in-line, but it is also the enactment – and perpetual reenactment of a tiny little story line, where the cold winds of the impersonal figures (who stand in for the place that “nature” used to play in the story we tell ourselves) are met and matched, are faced, by the solitary and heroic human being, his ability to see behind and above and around the numbers – and, above all, his own narrative sensibility, his sense of how stories like this one, the storyline we sometimes call “creative destruction,” go. Sundown, sunup – after bloodletting, regrowth. Of course it is just an effect of the sort of market cheerleading that is the raison d’être of CNBC – which spends far more time selling its viewers the market to its viewers than reporting on what the market is actually doing. But it is also an example of the tiny storylines, the little gnomic tropes, that run the world now, or at least try to. We find them everywhere – in the political sphere, the employment market, and of course in the realm of the geopolitical (“they only understand one thing, force” and the like…)

As we all know, however, form becomes most meaningful in its breakdown. This is a lesson that the modernists didn’t invent, but which they intensified, brought to the center of our understanding of how art works and how it means.

Look back at the capture I’ve inserted above. Apparently, today, the guy who writes the blurbs wasn’t able to find a sunny human on the trading floor to complete his preformatted narrative arc.. Look at the blank space there in the image, the empty spot where the rest of the story is supposed to be… A full four or five lines of text missing…

Stock indexes are sharply lower following worse than expected housing data, more troubles for Countrywide Financial and as traders have accelerated unwinding yen carry trades.

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Written by adswithoutproducts

August 16, 2007 at 12:37 pm

Posted in form, markets

s.o.s.

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CNBC this morning:

Most traders agree that this is not a liquidity problem, it is a credit problem. There is plenty of money around–it is just not getting to the players who need it, like the mortgage companies.

If that’s true, why are so many clamoring for a rate cut? If it is a credit problem, cutting the funds rate will make little difference, particularly since they have already flooded the market with liquidity. It will not magically make billions available to Countrywide or any other mortgage lender.

Still, traders like Charles Campbell at Miller Tabak has pointed out that this is a psychological Bear market–and in these kinds of markets a Fed cut–stock traders hope–will have the psychological effect of freeing up money to the players who need it.

Maybe. What is really needed is for major financial players, a strategic player (like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), or foreign players, to step in and make the market function normally. Expanding Fannie and Freddie’s role–allowing them to buy more mortgages–is widely advocated, but generally opposed by their regulators.

Hmm… “Make the market function normally.” A contradiction in terms? Like telling someone to “Act naturally…” Remember, Mr. Smith is watching…

Martin Wolf, yesterday in the FT:

Not so Jim Cramer, hedge fund manager and television pundit, who declared last Friday that chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, “is being an academic!…My people have been in this game for 25 years. And they are losing their jobs and these firms are going to go out of business, and he’s nuts! They’re nuts! They know nothing! . . .  The Fed is asleep.”So capitalism is for poor people and socialism is for capitalists. This view is not just offensive. It is catastrophic.

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Written by adswithoutproducts

August 16, 2007 at 11:20 am

Posted in markets