December 23, 2000

Greenspan at the Bat

(With apologies to Ernest L. Thayer)

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Wall Street crowd that morn:
The Nasdaq stood at yearly lows, the Dow looked as forlorn.
And then when Cisco slumped again, and Micron felt more shocks,
A pall-like silence fell upon all holders of tech stocks.

A wretched group sold out in fear of further Street imbroglios.
The rest clung to a single hope to save their sick portfolios.
They thought: "If only Greenspan's Fed would change its tightening tack,
We'd stem our losses, bottom out and start the long climb back."

But first there came the analysts from Chase and Merrill Lynch.
The former was a flagrant bear; the latter was a grinch.
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy fell;
It seemed that no one on the Street knew any word but "Sell!"

But then an optimist or two, as if from heaven sent,
Did speculate a cut was near - of point-two-five percent.
And as the midday hour approached, the market seemed so primed:
The Dow was up, the Nasdaq too, and even Cendant climbed.

And from five million throats and more there rose a lusty plea.
It rumbled through and on CNBC:
"Relief!" they cried, "We need relief! We're dying of self-pity!"
And so all eyes did turn at once to Chairman Al's committee.

At 2:15 the Fed itself did step up to the bat.
Its statement came - as always framed in lingua bureaucrat.
The experts tried to explicate that prolix verbal bounty,
Which was obscure and hard to read, like votes in Palm Beach County.

And when, as cameras clicked and whirred, the words were read aloud,
The nation stopped and all did watch, their heads serenely bowed.
For owners of Intel and Sun, of Dell and Motorola,
The author of this stern decree was like an ayatollah.
And even all the journalists, from Drudge to Tom Costello,
Were hanging on the every word of this soft-spoken fellow.

At first they heard the lovely words "Our bias we're undoing;
Inflation's not the danger now; recession may be brewing."
And then they listened long and hard for t'other shoe to drop,
For surely if all this was true, the discount rate he'd chop.

But no, there was no other shoe; he left it all at that.
The message came through loud and clear: The Fed was standing pat!
No interest cut was in the cards - no help, no mouth-to-mouth.
And so all stocks, from A to Z, resumed their journey south.

Oh, somewhere in this favored world the sun was shining bright;
The bulls were dreaming of new highs, and bears were taking flight,
And somewhere stocks were rising, making traders shout,
But there was no joy on Wall Street - Alan Greenspan had struck out.

Gary Krist, author of the novel "Chaos Theory," is working on a comic novel about the financial markets, past and present.

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