Tehran Traders Hope For Talks

Iranian traders
CBS
Traders at the Tehran Stock Exchange are certainly hoping that U.S. and Iranian officials do go ahead with direct meetings in Egypt. That, they say, might send share prices soaring.

"We're hoping that this Sharm el Sheikh will be an opening for better times for us," one trader told CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

Anxious investors crowd into the exchange every day. For two years, they've watched the market plummet due to American and U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

A big chill has settled over the business community. Investors have been scared off, and it's almost impossible to move money through major Iranian banks on the sanctions blacklist — like Bank Sepah, with its strong links to Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

Hardball sanctions enforcement, led by the U.S. Treasury, means that Bank Sepah is no longer doing business with anyone much outside Iran. In fact, it's been so effectively cut off that even though it's got plenty of cash, it can't pay its overseas debts.

But the business elite aren't the only ones hurting. Middle-class shoppers, many unemployed, struggle daily to cope with 22 percent inflation. People can barely afford to buy fruit. One woman says even onions and potatoes are expensive.

President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's popularity has already plunged as people blame him.

Broker Khosrow Pourmemah knows that side talks at a summit won't solve Iran's economic problems. But he does think they would be a step in the right direction, especially if they led to better relations with the United States.

"I think discussions, talking, is good," he said.

If Iran's politicians do move from confrontation to negotiation, it's because they, like their counterparts all over the world, know that in the end, they can't ignore the market.