This has been quite an eventful week in New York. The previous few weeks of economic decline, bad financial news, increasing unemployment numbers and other news of global distress had been pushing the New York Stock Exchange consistently and constantly lower and lower.
Things were so bad that people would have preferred a return of the stress-filled yo-yo stock market days, where one at least had a 50-50 chance of making or losing money!
From a high of almost 13,000 the NYSE reached 6500 and there was talk of it even heading lower. There were fears that it might even fall below 6000 before all is said and done.
This decline continued while the flood of bad news also continued unabated. The only silver lining one could see around these ominous dark clouds was that most companies were choosing to do greater layoffs than they need and reducing costs as much as they can.
Even though each job lost is something that can mean the destruction of dreams of a family, sadly, for big businesses it is all a numbers game. Companies generally prefer to dish out all their bad news in one lump rather than dish it out piecemeal. It is generally easier to recover from a massive jolt and negative dip in stock prices over a few weeks or months. It is harder to get over the malaise that can cripple a company’s stock price if the bad news, no matter how small, just keeps coming every few weeks.
What’s that suggests to me, and keep in mind that I’m no financial adviser, is that most companies may be gearing up to have better than expected results at the end of the March quarter. Or, at least results that are less terrible than the market anticipates. Either one of these could potentially mean a rise in stock prices in April.
Even before the end of the quarter, a few pieces of good news have come out. One of them was that Citibank has been profitable for the last two months. This is the giant global behemoth that is one of those banks considered too large to be allowed to fail. This news came shortly after the bank’s stock was trading at as low as one Dollar per share, a far cry from nearly $60 per share it used to be.
Anybody who bought those shares at the ridiculously low price of one Dollar literally made a profit of 35% in one day, as investors suddenly found their greed outweighing their fear.
Financial company stocks in general benefited from this uptick in the stock market. Most major stocks have been rising consistently for the last few days, though I expect some drops as profit-taking starts again.
Even though it is far too early to claim that the market will not plumb new lows, but more than likely, one year from now economists and other so-called experts will analyse and say that the recovery had begun at an anaemic but measurable rate in these weeks.
President Barack Obama and his team have had most of their focus on the American economy – as well as the global recession that still imperils the world. But in the meantime other serious matters of the world continue to demand attention.
As is consistent with Pakistan and its self-destructive ways, once again American media and Pakistan bashers have gotten ample opportunity to raise the specter of Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists – should the country spill further into anarchy.
The recent blatant and brazen terrorist attacks in the metropolitan city of Lahore, the despicable attempts to kill the Sri Lankan Cricket team and the evil murder of police officers and innocent bystanders there showed how almost no part of Pakistan is safe. This was an attack obviously not carried out by Taleban type thugs but by some well-organised but equally evil professionally trained gang of killers.
The Taleban continue to remain in the news, especially Pakistan ceding control of Swat and other regions to what are perceived as extremist groups. American drone and missile strikes continue to kill Pakistanis, innocent or otherwise, with disturbing regularity. India continues to rattle its sabers in the guise of demanding justice for the Mumbai attacks. In other words, there is no possible threat, internal or external, military, economic, political or social that Pakistan does not face.
Yet our shameless, spineless, gutless, clueless and witless politicians continue to fight over who sits at the head of the table – while this ship of state is rapidly sinking. Unlike even the Titanic, Pakistan is like a ship whose captain has been aiming it at every single iceberg he can see. On top of that, the ship has been torpedoed from behind. Its own crew is setting fire to cabins and furniture while others are busy looting what they can.
It is no wonder therefore that foreign powers, including America, find that the only way to control Pakistan, even to keep it from self-destructing, is to manage it not as friends but as masters. And, Pakistani politicians are quite OK with that.
From politicians, I want to shift to lawyers. Every country in the world has its share of lawyer jokes. For the last one year, and once again this month, it happens to be Pakistan’s lawyers and barristers, who have taken up the challenge to restore democracy and justice.
A profession that relies not on regular salaries but on almost daily work in the courthouse has once again stepped up, at great cost to its self, economically, professionally, personally. Today I must salute the lawyers and other professionals of Pakistan, not just for bringing down one dictator, but for ensuring that Pakistanis as a nation see that they can choose and control what the government can or cannot do when an elected person tries to act as a dictator.
Will democracy rule or will Pakistan sink into the abyss of chaos and anarchy?
The fact that things have come to this stage in itself is a tragedy. For the first time in more than 60 years we had an opportunity to establish state institutions. This was a historic opportunity because so many forces lined up in a once in a century series of events. The sacrifice of Benazir Bhutto, the professionalism of General Kayani, the sensibility of some political leaders and the great courage of Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry and fellow judges. Rarely had so many forces lined up to restore true democracy to Pakistan. And, sadly, rarely have historic opportunities of such greatness been grasped in Pakistan.
As I am writing these lines in New York – on this 13th of March – I am hoping for some good luck for Pakistan. The only positive news is that some sort of compromise may be in the works in Islamabad. I, like millions of Pakistanis, can only hope and pray for that miracle and some Good Luck, today, on Friday The 13th.
This article was in client publications on Friday the 13th, 2009.
Imran Anwar is a New York based Pakistani-American entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, inventor, writer and TV personality. He can be reached through his web site http://imran.com and firstname.lastname@example.org . You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/imrananwar