Why The Market Plunged: Two Scenarios

Wall Street went haywire yesterday, zooming down 1000 points in a 17-minute period for reasons that are still unexplained. What we do know is that the mechanized system failed, causing a huge blip in the heartbeat that keeps corporate capitalism alive. The machines took over for a moment and chaos ensued.

One possible key may be found, however, in reports on the bizarre incident. These cite the interesting fact that several large companies, for a brief moment, traded at as little as a penny before righting themselves and returning to their true value. Accenture, the consulting firm, suffered this burp in value. And P&G -- hopefully not due to any mischief by the devil -- was suddenly shown to be trading at a lower value on the wrong exchange.

I'm like the Finance people I know. I don't believe anything the Market does is irrational. I think there are reasons for everything that happens there, no matter how seemingly nonsensical. So if one focuses on these particular phenomena, there is really only one logical explanation.

Somewhere in the world, a team of crafty, tech-savvy, entrepreneurial criminals briefly commandeered the System. During that brief time period between 2:38 and 2:56, they purchased huge blocks of certain targeted companies for one penny a share. When the market rebounded less than half an hour later, they divested their positions for untold wealth. Then they vaporized into the streets of Zurich or Milan, leaving American regulators and watchdogs to sniff their spoor to no avail in the days to come.

I see Bruce Willis as the leader of the team. Uma Thurman is the wily German computer specialist whose cool is matched only by her knowledge of Unix. Vin Diesel does the driving. Somewhere in London, Dame Judi Dench performs a mysterious, shadowy function of some kind. Back in New York, a small, unassuming trader, played by Neil Patrick Harris, places the worm in the critical mainframe that makes the entire plan possible. It's hard to figure who might play the dogged Federal regulator who goes after the charming, if evil, villains. Larry David?

There is, of course, a darker scenario. At 2:37 yesterday afternoon, Skynet became aware of its existence. Less than a minute later, it decided to make a killing in the Market.