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As Dow Plummets, A Trader Urges Calm


From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. It was a rough day on Wall Street. The good news is that the Dow lost only about 370 points. That was after falling 800 points. The markets closed below the 10,000 mark for the first time in four years. In a moment, we'll hear about turmoil in European markets and more about the Treasury's rescue plans.

BLOCK: First, to the tumult of the day on Wall Street. And for that, we're joined by Ted Weisberg. He's a floor trader at the New York Stock Exchange and president of Seaport Securities. Thanks for being with us.

Mr. TED WEISBERG (President, Seaport Securities): My pleasure.

BLOCK: And I bet going into this day, you knew that you will be having a rough day, given what happened overnight on the foreign exchanges.

Mr. WEISBERG: You know, I've been on - I've been working on the trading floor as a broker for almost 40 years, and I've never taken Excedrin or any other kind of pills. I've been swallowing them the last three or four days. I mean, the tension and certainly, today's activity, though not unexpected based on what happened in Asia and Europe overnight, no matter how long you're here, it's still tough to get used to sometimes.

BLOCK: Did you expect that the day would end worse than it did?

Mr. WEISBERG: Well, no. I, actually, believe it or not, I thought we would end even better than we did. The fact that we climbed out of that big hole, of course, is sort of a victory, but the record books will still show that we're down 369 points on the day and closing below 10,000. And technically, that's not a positive.

BLOCK: You know, I'm convinced we can get through this conversation without slipping into the roller coaster cliche. But if you look at a graph of the day, it does go down, down, down, down and then a steep climb at the end of the day. What's that like for you as a trader on the floor?

Mr. WEISBERG: Well, it's, obviously, when they rally like that, psychologically, it's a little better. Quite frankly, and I realize it sounds like 20/20 hindsight, but I don't think it was unexpected. The fact is that, at Seaport, with one or two exceptions, we saw mostly buy orders all day today. I suspect that some folks just began to feel that perhaps the sell-off was just getting a little over done. And I think that's probably what the rally off the lows was all about. Sometimes stocks are funny, and they get overdone. And certainly, I think maybe - at least, for the moment, a little overdone on the sell side. Of course, only time will tell.

BLOCK: Well, who's buying?

Mr. WEISBERG: Well, you know, you don't know. It's institutions. It's individuals, maybe some short terming, you know, and perhaps all of the above. But I would simply say that so much of stock trading is driven by human emotion. And clearly, the emotion driving the train at the moment or the decision making process is being driven by a lot of fear and concern. And I'm not saying that it's not valid, but when you get these emotional extremes in the market, and you get them on the upside as well as on the down side, and some people saying there is blood in the streets, perhaps that's the time for people who are not thinking emotionally, but perhaps are their doing homework, see some terrific trading opportunities. And I think that's perhaps what we saw today a little bit.

BLOCK: Well, you're there right now on the floor of the Stock Exchange after the markets have closed. Look ahead to tomorrow, the rest of the week. Are you going to be running out to the drug store for more Excedrin, or do you think things are settling down?

Mr. WEISBERG: We've got a pretty big bottle.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Do you think it can last through the week?

Mr. WEISBERG: Well, I think, you know, there's a lot of issues here. That's a big question, and unfortunately, there's no one answer to the question. I think the volatility is with us no matter what. I think the passage of this bill - I suspect that there was a perception, unfortunately, that the signage of this bill last week would be an instant solution to our problems. I think it was clearly important that this bill gets signed as perfect or as imperfect as it might be because what the markets are lacking and what the markets need are confidence and transparency, and this bill will go a long way to reestablishing that. But it's not going to happen overnight.

BLOCK: Well, Ted Weisberg, thanks for talking to us at the end of what I know has been a very busy day for you.

Mr. WEISBERG: My pleasure.

BLOCK: Ted Weisberg is president of Seaport Securities and a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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