August 15, 2011
In the old days, at Disneyland, it wasn’t a one-price-at-the-gate experience. They charged for entry, and then sold you ticket books. A, B, C, D and E tickets were in a book to be traded for seats on the rides. The kid-friendly attractions were A’s and B’s; the thrill-a-minute good stuff was “E-ticket,” for sure. The last couple of weeks on Wall Street has been an E-ticket experience for everyone…
“Fear returned to Wall Street on Wednesday, sending the S&P 500 to another 4 per cent decline, triggered by worries that Europe's debt crisis could engulf French banks and spill onto the US financial sector,” (The Economic Times).
“Turmoil over the country’s debt ceiling and worries about a U.S. default have heightened fears about the failing condition of the American economy, despite a last-minute resolution to raise U.S debt ceiling reached on Tuesday,” (The Christian Post).
“The volatility was evident this week as the so-called ‘VIX volatility index’ – known as Wall Street's ‘fear gauge’ – rose to levels last seen in the midst of the financial crisis. Some of the panicked selling is surely a result of memories of 2008, when the near-collapse of major banks left many investors with an instinct to get out as soon as possible. ‘People are afraid of things that could happen rather than things that have already occurred,’ said Adam Sussman, the director of research at Tabb Group, a financial data company,” (Los Angeles Times).
These days are not about spreadsheets and economic indicators; the daily trading experience is less about facts and more about feelings. Buy and sell decisions are no longer made just in the head; today, they are more likely ordered in line with the heart.
The last couple of weeks have been like a cardio test, administered on a treadmill in the clinic. Keep the Fox Business channel on the screen, and watch the blood pressure monitors and heart rate; what do they indicate? “ For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matthew 6:21).
The national press is reporting “consumer confidence” as a key factor in forecasting the cultural future. This week: “Consumer Confidence Dropped,” (Bloomberg). Confidence is crucial, make no mistake; the essential question is far deeper. Upon what is your confidence based?
How’s your heart doing today, after a couple weeks of economic gyration? Let me offer a powerful antidote to the fear that has a death grip on our peers today: “ Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his hornwill be lifted high in honor. The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing,” (from Psalm 112).
Great news: participation in the cultural chaos is optional, for the Child of God. Counter-intuitive strategies – graciousness, compassion, generosity, ethical actions, giving to need – are all but absent the fearful investor’s life… but are exquisitely evident in the daily practices of the person who trusts the Divine more than the Dow.
A new week; the E-ticket market coaster is reloading for another time around the track. Don’t let your heart get on it; make God’s promises your stress management strategy. Don’t be “normal;” be gracious, compassionate, generous, ethical and benevolent… and your exception will be noted!