Financial Market Update: After the Bell -Friday, Oct. 10

Investors usually pay lip service to long-term investing, but in times of crisis the reality is sell – everything – now! Panic was the order of the day on Wall Street, which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average free fall 679 points, or about 7 percent, to the lowest level in five years. The Standard & Poor’s 500 also lost about 7 percent. Painfully, especially to those who invested in the market a year ago, October 9 was the first anniversary of the all-time DJIA peak of 14,198.Leading the way was General Motors, whose stock was down 31 percent. In retrospect, putting all its eggs in that SUV basket back in the 1990s wasn’t a good long-term strategy.Rather than merely haul away toxic bank assets at unreasonably high prices, thereby rewarding bankers for their bad judgment, word is (via various major news outlets) that Sec. Henry Paulson (pictured) and his minions at Treasury are actually considering buying ownership stakes in the banks that the department helps with its $700 billion line of credit from the American people. It’s an idea that’s been kicking around almost since Paulson proposed the original bailout plan, and would amount to a partial nationalization of the banking industry, which may be why he’s resisted it until now. If such a plan happened here, it would resemble action taken this week in the U.K., where the government is offering such banks as Barclays, HSBC Holdings and the Royal Bank of Scotland capital to boost their balance sheets, in return for ownership stakes. National City Corp. of Cleveland might be the next bank to disappear in the great consolidation of the financial industry now under way. According to the Wall Street Journal, the regional bank is talking to such likely buyers as PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and the Bank of Nova Scotia. “National City should be one of the key beneficiaries of the enacted government bailout plan as it is one of the most exposed in our universe to distressed assets,” wrote BMO Capital Markets analyst Lana Chan in a note to investors. The International Monetary Fund, which has been issuing reports and statements of various sorts recently, has come to the conclusion that there’s going to be a recession pretty much everywhere in the world, starting now. How many PhDs did it take to come up with that observation? Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. has reported that same-store sales fell 14 percent in September 2008, compared with the same month last year, which can be taken as more evidence that luxury-goods retail–luxury in this case defined as things consumers merely like to buy, as opposed to necessities–is taking it squarely on the chin. Perhaps Abercrombie & Fitch can start a new advertising campaign featuring fashionably dressed hobos hitching rides on the rails and sharing freshly made Mulligan stew. Mildly good news: The number of people filing unemployment insurance claims fell to 478,000 in the week ending October 4, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, down 20,000 from the previous week, which saw a seven-year high. The drop was expected, as the employment impact of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav begins to fade. Mildly better news: Executives at failed insurance giant AIG have decided that another planned retreat at the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Half Moon Bay, Calif., might not be such a good idea, and have called it off. Embarrassing publicity apparently has the power to touch even executives with enormously swollen senses of entitlement.