There was a huddle around the TV sets last week as folks watched to see how far the market would fall. A colleague stopped by the office to provide the play-by-play: The Dow’s down 300, he said. Then, 400.

The phone rang: “Are you seeing this?” a friend asked.

I was. Down 500.

Then past 600.

You figured it would be ugly, given Standard & Poor’s decision over the weekend to downgrade the United States’ creditworthiness. But a day like Monday was enough to give pause nonetheless, even when it was followed by a 430-point surge on Tuesday.

Whatever we thought about the economic recovery during the first half of the year no longer seems to matter.

It feels like we have collectively hit the reset button.


Just about everyone I ran into last week bemoaned the lack of will in political Washington. As the week went on, I sensed not panic, but resignation. Most people seem to understand we in for a prolonged period of uncertainty, as much as we wish it were not so.

All you can do is roll up your sleeves and move forward.

That won’t be easy. Caution abounds. Hiring plans get put on hold. Big purchases delayed.

It’ll be interesting to watch how the recent economic news affects the strategies of companies such Carlyle Group, the giant private equity firm, and online coupon purveyor LivingSocial. Both are gearing up to go public.

Timing is everything. Such moves — if and when they occur — are likely to say as much about confidence in the economy as any.

For now, judging the health of the economy from market reaction on any one day or week is a tricky endeavor.

Markets don’t really go up and down in a linear fashion. They often hiccup. Teasing out trends takes time.

It was like that during the great dot-com bubble, when we stood around the TVs to see what new barrier the market would crash through each day. And we are seeing it again now, as stocks slide lower, recover and dip down again.