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Legal Commentary: Adam Smith, Esq.
This is actually a new-for-2009 Waterford crystal ball, approximately 10 feet in diameter, weighing over 12,000 pounds, covered with 2,668 crystal triangles, and illuminated by more than 32,000 LEDs. Happy big bad bright New Year.
Actually, Dear Reader, I imagine many of you, as I, will be just as pleased to kiss 2008 goodbye:
- The Dow ended the year down 33.8%, its worst annual showing since 1931--and 28 of the 30 stocks (all but Wal-Mart and McDonalds) were down by more than 10%;
- The more representative S&P 500 was down 38.5%;
- The famously tech-centric NASDAQ was down 40.5%;
- The small-stock Russell 2000 was down 34.8%;
- The FTSE 100 declined 30.9% on the year, its worst annual drop since it was created nearly 25 years ago;
- Nearly $7-trillion in US wealth has been wiped out, erasing all the stock market gains of the past six years;
- There was no place to hide abroad either, with the "BRIC" stock markets down from 55% to 72%;
- Commodities such as oil and copper have crashed, and the Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, which first began tracking a basket of commodity prices in 1956, will be down nearly 40%, an all-time record annual decline, while the S&P FSCI index, another benchmark for commodity investors, was down over 50%;
- And of course the US housing market is in a famous and now nearly theatrical swoon, with median prices (there is of course no such thing as a "median" housing market) down by about 14%, by all accounts the largest decline nationwide since the Great Depression;
- Wall Street as we knew it (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs in their own ways) went away;
- Not to mention Heller Ehrman, Thacher Proffitt, and Thelen Reid, plus countless layoffs and pay and bonus freezes in our little corner of the world.
What, then, are my wishes for you for 2009?
As I've written fairly consistently this year, try to put these events all in perspective. You are not your net worth or your income, and if both have returned to 2002 or 2003 levels, the world has not, actually, come to an end.
Nevertheless, an array of forces that have heretofore seemed rather randomly aligned, disconnected from one another, and more imaginary than real, may—emphasis on may—be assembling for the first time into something recognizable and coherent, although still, at the moment, of little real impact. I don't know if this is, or will be, true, and I don't know of any way of thinking about it harder or looking for more data to tell if it will be true.
I can promise to you, however, Dear Reader, that in 2009 my fervent hope and commitment will be to continuing to make "Adam Smith, Esq." a place where everyone who cares so deeply about our industry and our profession can assemble to help figure these things out—and change them for the better.
Happy Big Bad Bright 2009.
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