A financial crisis anniversary worth forgetting

Two workers carry the Lehman Brothers corporate logo away Sept. 24, 2010, in London, England. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

(MoneyWatch) The traditional anniversary gift for a fourth anniversary is flowers. I think I speak for everyone when I say "no flowers" are necessary to honor the fourth anniversary of the worst part of the financial crisis. If was four years ago yesterday that Bank of America announced its intent to purchase Merrill Lynch & Co. for $50 billion and Lehman Brothers Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

As a reminder of just how bad that week was, consider this timeline:

  • 9/15/2008: Bank of America announced its intent to purchase Merrill Lynch for $50 billion
  • 9/15/2008: Lehman Brothers Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
  • 9/16/2008: The Federal Reserve Board authorized the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to lend up to $85 billion to AIG under Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act
  • 9/16/2008: The net asset value of shares in the Reserve Primary Money Fund fell below $1, primarily due to losses on Lehman Brothers commercial paper and medium-term notes
  • 9/19/2008: The Treasury Department announced that it would insure up to $50 billion in money-market fund investments at companies that pay a fee to participate in the program. The year-long initiative guaranteed that the funds' value will not fall below the $1 a share
  • 9/20/2008: The Treasury Department submitted draft legislation to Congress for authority to purchase troubled assets
  • 9/21/2008: The Federal Reserve Board approved applications of investment banking companies Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to become bank holding companies

To recap: Over the course of one week, four investment banks were gone (one absorbed, one went broke and two were forced to become bank holding companies; a global insurance company was bailed out; the money market fund industry was rocked; and the Treasury Department introduced the first version of TARP, which granted authority to purchase $700 billion of mortgage-related assets for two years.

Where do we stand four years after this momentous week? The economy and banking system are no longer perched on the precipice of disaster, which is a good thing. Still, the recovery continues to be slow-going, which is why last week, the Fed announced new measures to boost growth.

The epicenter of the financial crisis, housing, is finally starting to make progress this year and the jobs market is healing, but at a snail's pace: Payroll employment is still 3.5 percent below the pre-recession peak and median incomes have dropped for four consecutive years to an inflation-adjusted $50,054.

On the bailout front, TARP turned into a different plan and AIG needed more than the original $85 billion life line. The AIG commitment swelled to $182 billion, but amazingly, Treasury is likely to recoup its bailout of AIG. (The news is not so rosy for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and GM, which collectively owe Uncle Sam approximately $169 billion).

As far as the stock market, that first week's volatility was a harbinger of the wild gyrations that would spook investors for months to come. The week itself wasn't so bad, if you didn't have to live through the day-to-day swings. By Friday Sept. 19, the Dow had dropped just 33 points to 11,388; the S&P 500 edged up 4 points to 1,255; and the NASDAQ was up 12 points to 2,273.

Since that historic and frightening week in 2008, the S&P 500 dropped to its lowest depths in March 2009, then retraced to levels that, four years later, brought the index nearly 17 percent higher.

-- DJIA: 13,593, up 2.1% on week, up 11.3% on year (highest close since Dec 10, 2007)

-- S&P 500: 1,465, up 1.9% on week, up 16.6% on year (6.4% below all time high set Oct. 9, 2007)

-- NASDAQ: 3,183, up 1.5% on week, up 22.2% on year (highest close since Nov. 9, 2000)

-- November Crude Oil: $99.33, up 2.7% on week (up 27% since June 28 lows)

-- December Gold: $1,772.70, up 1.9% on week

-- AAA National Average Price for Gallon of Regular Gas: $3.87

THE WEEK AHEAD:

Mon 9/17:

8:30 Empire State Manufacturing

Tues 9/18:

10:00 FHFA Housing Market Index

Weds 9/19:

7:00 MBA mortgage purchase applications index

8:30 Housing Starts

10:00 Existing Home Sales

Thurs 9/20:

8:30 Weekly jobless claims

10:00 Philadelphia Fed Survey

Fri 9/21:

Quadruple Witching: When contracts for stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures (SSF) all expire -- it can lead to increased volatility

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    Jill Schlesinger, CFP®, is the Editor-at-Large for CBS MoneyWatch. She covers the economy, markets, investing or anything else with a dollar sign. Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch in 2009, Jill was the chief investment officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.

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