Freefall Friday: Richard Littlejohn might laugh at Banki Hankipanki, but the City is running scared

Another massive downward lurch on the markets today. Partly caused by technical issues relating to the liquidation of Lehman Brothers.

And partly caused by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The Daily Mail is calling it Freefall Friday. In the media, everything has taken a hammering — except, oddly, Johnston Press.

DMGT: Down 6.7% at 304.5p

Trinity Mirror: Down 9.1% at 65p

Johnston Press: Up 6.5% at 37p

ITV: Down 2% at 35.25p

Independent News & Media: Down 5.4% at E1.05

United Business Media: Down 5.6% at 454.75p

Centaur Media: Down 7.1% at 52.5p

WPP: Down 6.9% at 367p

This morning’s Markets Live session at FT Alphaville made for astonishing reading: 700+ reader comments in the space of two hours.

There’s still little sign that credit markets are unfreezing. Banks are still unwilling to lend to each other, and to their customers.

In the Mail, Richard Littlejohn takes the piss out of “Iceland’s Banki Hankipanki”. Presumably, he’s been reading yesterday’s Sun, which continued its policy of laughing in the face of financial apocalypse.

Under different circumstances, comparing Alastair Darling to a Gerry Anderson puppet would be funny. But there’s something about this humour that doesn’t quite work.

In the real world, anger is building. Max Hastings is now calling for the public naming and shaming of the City’s “lunatics”. (“And when we have the names, like the profiteers of the First World War, they should be perceived as men and women whom decent people will not share a park bench with.”)

On a more somber note, Peter Oborne warns that Britain is just five meals away from anarchy.

Alarmist? Who knows? In North America, there are reports of grain shipments piling up in warehouses because no-one can give (or take) credit guarantees. China is turning away shiploads of iron ore because worldwide demand for steel is collapsing.

Here, thanks to government seizure of Icelandic banks, Debenhams, Moss Bros, Woolworths and French Connection now seem to be part-owned by Gordon Brown’s new best friends in Reykeyavik..

Sainsburys is in deep trouble. Retail Week is reporting that JJB Sports, the high street chain, can’t pay its rent. Several branches have been visited by bailiffs, it seems.

On Wall Street, there are rumours that the investment bank Morgan Stanley might go under. General Motors, too. Yesterday on Wall Street, the motor manufacturer’s shares lost one-third of their value, closing at their lowest level since the 1950s.

At FT Alphaville, economists suggest that equity markets are at “riot point”.

Among Alphaville readers, the gallows humour includes one prediction of martial law in the US within a week. “Go long on ammunition and canned food,” writes one commenter. Another suggests that Zimbabwe is now looking like a safe haven.

There’s talk of surviving by “hunting wild animals and surviving off berries and tree bark”. And, of course, there’s laughter at the fact that the FT published an edition of How To Spend It this morning.

The FT‘s Neil Hume has taken to referring to the British krona, rather than the British pound. The krona in question is tumbling against the dollar — down below $1.70 now.

Who’d be a finance minister at this weekend’s G7 and G20 crisis meetings? Our leaders have got 48 hours to save the world from depression. They’d best get busy.

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