Ripples reach Rogue Valley economy

The credit maelstrom that sucked the life out of Lehman Brothers and tossed Merrill Lynch into Bank of America's arms has global markets in chaos.

But what do the troubled financial waters mean for folks living in the Rogue Valley?

For investors with money in those institutions, Monday wasn't pretty. But for the typical paycheck-to-paycheck working stiff, the impact will be less dramatic.

"The speculative excess Wall Street built up is getting worked out, but for the average guy on the street I don't think much of anything will happen," said Mark Sosey, a broker with Wachovia unit A.G. Edwards in Medford. "It's a momentous day for people involved in Wall Street, but one thing most people have missed is that it's part of the self-healing process. That should give the average investor encouragement; things are not spiraling out of control."

He suggested the London-Interbank Offered Rate, which banks use to borrow money from one another, will drop because Lehman and Merrill Lynch are no longer creating uncertainty.

Lyn Hennion, a broker with the Medford office of Strand Atkinson Williams & York, said the market changes will cause some people to re-examine their financial future.

"People thinking about retirement maybe won't retire for a while," Hennion said. "Some of this has already shown up with the declines we've had in the market in the past year. In retirement you're looking for security, and you're not finding that in equities (stocks). But bonds are doing well today. So you can see a flight to safety."

The talking heads on Bloomberg Television and CNBC interviewed analysts and investors on Monday morning, but little was said about what it means for the little guy.

"People need to know what's happening on Wall Street and there will be big impacts," Sosey said. "But in this case there's not going to be a lot of change in their lives."

He pointed out the housing market and credit issues for business expansion have already been in play.

"We've been in an incredible crunch mode where it has been difficult for business to borrow and expand," Sosey said.

While the Federal Reserve stepped in during the Bear Stearns collapse last spring, and earlier this month the U.S. Treasury Department struck a deal to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, there was no such rescue this time.

Sosey said there is a marked difference between government action during the present credit crisis and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"There is a huge difference between the activist executive branch and how it reacted compared to the Depression — the baseline for everyone," Sosey said. "We have an incredibly activist Treasury, Federal Reserve and administration trying to solve this problem. They wanted to solve Fannie and Freddie a long time ago, but Congress wouldn't let them."

Companies that don't require other people's money to function will come through the upheaval in good shape, Sosey said. MDU Resources, parent company of Knife River Corp. (formerly known as LTM here) is an example, he said.

"We're in a historic time right now," Hennion said. "It's going to be fascinating to look back in five years and see what it meant, where we are going. It means it's a time for patience and give it time to sort out."

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