A replay of Mortimer's moment of panic in the movie Trading Places was the sentiment driving markets to "sell! sell! sell!" as the markets plunged nearly 6% in two days last week, the worst Wall Street has seen since December of 2008.
On Thursday, all three indexes closed down more than 3%. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 391 points, or 3.5%. It's down 7% in 2011. The S&P 500 lost 37 points, or 3.2%, with only six of its components showing gains. The S&P is down 7% for the year. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 82.5 points, or 3.3%, and more than 10% for the year.
So what happened? Nothing! That's exactly what has happened. A climate of bad and worse news followed by much talk and little action is leading people to a state of panic and fear. Thursday's report by the Fed with a prognosis of "significant downside risks to the economy" has caused a significant sense of panic followed by a significant dash to the exit door, turning investments into hard, cold cash.
And if a bad report card wasn't enough, fears of more lay-offs on the horizon, of financial institutions collapsing, of the European debt crisis are being compounded by a political climate clouded by agendas of election and re-election that overshadow the need for a pragmatic plan of action. Investment drivers are as emotional and psychological as the reputation game tabloids play on celebrities. What you hear and see, you end up believing, which ultimately impacts your opinion of something or someone. Repetition builds retention and so much repetition of incompetence, disagreement and frustration is sticking in the minds of the global investor community.
Talk is cheap and it is getting expensive these days. Every day that goes by filled with empty rhetoric followed by talks of meetings after meetings yielding no practical results is at the bottom of this collective nonsense.
Net, net it is a matter of confidence.
According to Meridian-Webster, confidence is the faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way. Note the key words here, "act" and "effective way", both lacking in today's economic environment. Most business leaders and entrepreneurs know that an idea or plan is only as good as its ability to be properly executed, and unfortunately the latter is visibly lacking. So how could we get overt the hurdle and move into action? How can we restore confidence?
If the House, the Senate, the G-20, the Fed and many more official entities have failed to find and implement a solution, maybe it is time to reach for brain power outside mysterious committees. We could continue to sit and wait or get invited to participate into the discussion through venues that welcome practical ideas from the many brilliant CEOs, entrepreneurs and business leaders whose equity is at stake if the economy doesn't move forward. Have they asked? Have governments opened the floor to received plans and proposals that come from other sources? Unusual circumstances call for unusual methods.
If egos are set aside and a more true sense of urgency is applied to seek solutions, we may graduate from a blaming game to a collaborative game to win with a new draft of players.
For example, while the markets plunged, Nike's revenues reported an 18% increase. Should President Obama pick up the phone and call Mr. Mark Parker, President and CEO of Nike, Inc. to decipher how his financials are growing in the middle of a crisis? Clearly he is doing something the government is not ... Could we learn something different, new and practical from the successful businesses, and young entrepreneurs whose enterprises are thriving on the verge of a recession? All you need to do, House, Senate, G-20 and Mr. President is ask ... and maybe confidence could have a comeback.
Let's steal a page out of the tech-world's open-innovation playbook and seek to create better solutions with more open-financial thinking.
Lili Gil is an award-winning business and Hispanic market expert, media/ TV contributor and host of the online show Moments2CulturRise. She is also co-founder and managing partner of XL Alliance a cross-channel marketing strategy organization dedicated to helping business executives maximize their efforts into profitable growth. Gil was recently selected by the World Economic Forum as one of only 190 Young Global Leaders identified across 65 countries for her leadership, community and business impact. You can follow Lili on twitter @liligil
Follow Lili Gil on Twitter: www.twitter.com/liligil