Financial Market Update: After the Closing Bell-Thurs., Oct. 23

This is the kind of day that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had: down a little, up a lot, down a little, down some more, up for a short time, down again, up a lot more, down a little, up a lot and then down a little, till the bell rang. Investors couldn’t make up their minds, and who can blame them? In the end, the DJIA was up 172.04 points, or about 2 percent. The Nasdaq lost a bit: 0.73 percent. The S&P 500 gained a bit: 1.26 percent. GE, which back in the good old days–until September, that is–issued more commercial paper than any other U.S. company, is now planning to use the Fed’s short-term funding facility, according to Bloomberg. GE Capital, the conglomerate’s financial arm, is eligible for up to $60 billion from the facility.  Credit tsunami? Alan Greenspan has long been known for his peculiar turns of phrase, but is tsunami the right word? A tsunami does knock things over and do a lot of damage, but it also involves too much of something: water. The current credit situation is doing its damage because there isn’t enough of something: credit. Wouldn’t credit drought be better, or credit doldrums, or credit coma, or maybe “irrational despondency”? In any case, that’s what Greenspan said today. Have a nice retirement, Al. For more, see Scott Baltic’s CPN article today on the former Fed chief.  Former investment bank Goldman Sachs Group is showing 10 percent of its employees the door, in the wake of a profit decline of 71.1 percent during 3Q08, compared with the same quarter last year. Perhaps these cuts will be judicious and well-thought-out, or maybe each employee will draw from a jar of 90 percent white beans/10 percent black beans, and whoever gets a black bean is fired. Another shocker: Home prices in the U.S. fell 5.9 percent in August from the same month a year ago, according the Federal Housing Finance Agency, as reported by Bloomberg today. That’s the steepest decline since 1991, a year not too fondly remembered in real estate circles. According to RealtyTrac, whose business is foreclosure data, U.S. foreclosure fillings are through the roof, up 71 percent in 3Q08, compared with 3Q07. At the end of June, U.S. banks held $9.9 billion in foreclosed properties — assuming the banks could actually sell them for that much — up from $8.5 billion in March. In any case, every three months, another 250,000 homes enter foreclosure. Which raises the question: why are banks so reluctant to renegotiate mortgage terms, or allow bankruptcy judges to impose changes? What is it about countless hard-to-sell empty houses on one’s books that’s so appealing?