Monday, September 15, 2008

Blackouts in Cincy, Black Monday for the banks

America's stockbrokers are folding:

In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street’s history, Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself on Sunday to Bank of America for roughly $50 billion to avert a deepening financial crisis, while another prominent securities firm, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy protection and hurtled toward liquidation after it failed to find a buyer.

The humbling moves, which reshape the landscape of American finance, mark the latest chapter in a tumultuous year in which once-proud financial institutions have been brought to their knees as a result of hundreds of billions of dollars in losses because of bad mortgage finance and real estate investments.

The crisis is still rippling out, and may swallow AIG and Washington Mutual this week. Meanwhile there's good news about the price of oil:

Oil plunged $7 on Monday as investors fled to safer havens, due to turmoil in the U.S. financial system, and on early signs Hurricane Ike had spared key U.S. energy infrastructure. ...

U.S. crude dropped $7 to $94.18 barrel at 1135 GMT, the lowest level in seven months. U.S. oil dropped below $100 briefly on Friday for the first time since early April, and trade was open for a special session on Sunday due to Hurricane Ike.

... but the gasoline retailers in Tennessee haven't heard about it yet:

Gas has already shot up over $4 in a lot of places, even close to home. In Gatlinburg, one gas station is currently selling a gallon of regular for $4.15, though surrounding stations are charging 20 cents less.

Price-gouging like that was rampant across the country as it was feared that the US would lose 20% of its refining capacity -- that's our part down here -- from Ike's wrath. Not the case. Cars were lined up ten deep to pay $3.59 a gallon at the Chevron on Hwy. 6 and 290 in northwest Houston yesterday afternoon.

They probably wanted to leave because they didn't have a/c:

As night fell only one in four Houston-area electric customers had power.

Mercifully, temperatures forecast to dip into the upper 60s overnight helped with the heat, but did nothing for those with dwindling cell phone batteries, melting ice, spoiling food and restless children. As of 8 p.m. CenterPoint Energy had restored power to 380,000 customers, but 1.72 million were still without power.

And from the Buckeye State, as well as other Midwest locales, Ike is still beating US up:

Power outages darkened more than a million homes and businesses in Ohio and Kentucky.

More than 680,000 Duke Energy customers were without power Sunday night in southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky in the biggest outage in the company's history, said Duke Energy spokeswoman Kathy Meinke.

"It's going to be quite extensive," Meinke said. "Over 90 percent of our customers are without service."

Neil is still hoping to post something when he can make it out to the library, so I'll defer the belated Ohio report to him.

I'll find out later today what my place smells like.

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