Will the fear dissipate or is it bound to return? This question is being asked not only by traders and by the public, through its long-term savings, but by the tycoons as well. What happened on stock markets here and abroad last week was so dramatic and severe that the business world may go into real shock if the markets don't calm down in the near future.
Indeed, brokers on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, which opens Sunday, will have to respond and will be among the first in the world to do so. Arab markets are also open today. But it is clear that the real interpretation of events will be given when the American stock market opens Monday afternoon Israel time.
In the meantime, the outlook was positive this weekend. Tensions seem to have relaxed and a series of important steps have been taken. For example, the Italian government passed a budget-cut plan intended to ease pressure in Europe. In addition, restraints were placed on short-sellers who profit when everything is collapsing.
But fear has its own rules and they are not necessarily rational. Once it starts, especially on the stock market, it is hard to alleviate. The main problem, of course, is that the market has a concrete impact on the fates of countries and governments. The moment markets become fearful of a government’s ability to pay its debts, its interest rate jumps and its ability to raise capital is hindered. This is one of the existing system's drawbacks. It is not clear what can be done to counter it. On the other hand, the era we live in follows a short period of abandon with public money.
Governments have wasted mountains of public money through debts incurred in an effort to revive economic growth. So it is not such a surprise that markets, which to a certain extent reflect the degree of trust people feel toward their governments, have simply lost that trust. This crisis is one of a loss of faith. What the world is missing is true leadership. We've already seen what the White House had to offer last week. We also witnessed Washington’s contribution to the farcical debate over raising the debt ceiling.
Suddenly, in retrospect, we realize that it is only natural that world markets would respond to this bizarre saga with panic. Perhaps on Sunday morning, we can express a cautious hope that that's all it was -- a panic attack. This attack, we hope, will be treated by responsible adults who act with practicality and reason as opposed to pettiness and cynicism.