Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A financial crisis unmatched since the Great Depression, say analysts

Source: The Gardian

"A century after John Pierpont Morgan rescued the New York stockmarket from a 50% sell off in share prices, his blue-blooded Wall Street bank was yesterday once again at the heart of attempts to contain the deepening global financial crisis.

In an echo of the "bankers' panic" of 1907, JP Morgan responded to what is being billed as a meltdown of historic proportions by agreeing to buy its stricken rival, Bear Stearns.

The length and severity of the crisis that broke over global markets last summer has had analysts delving into their history books. George Soros, who was largely responsible for Black Wednesday, the last bout of serious financial turmoil to afflict the UK, believes there has been nothing to match the events of the past nine months since the Great Depression.

Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Fed and the man blamed by many for setting off the boom-bust in the US housing market, agrees with the man who broke the Bank of England. Writing in the Financial Times yesterday, Greenspan said: "The current financial crisis in the US is likely to be judged as the most wrenching since the end of the second world war."

The first 25 years after the war were relatively trouble free. Britain had devalued the pound in 1949 and 1967, but the first real systemic threat to the financial system arrived in 1973 with the secondary banking crisis that affected the "fringe banks" that had provided money to speculators during the property boom. When the crash came, the Bank of England launched a "lifeboat" to prevent the crisis spreading..."

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