Leaking against the short-sellers? Robert Peston mixes it with the Sopranos

A stray comment at FT Alphaville underlines the febrile context in which financial reporters are operating as the market collapse continues into its third day.

The topic under discussion is the ongoing talks that might lead to Lloyds TSB organizing a rescue bid for HBOS. This piece of news was broken by the BBC’s Robert Peston this morning just before the markets opened (at 8.55am, if I’m correct).

Peston’s whopping exclusive smells like a strategic leak (by the authorities), designed to prevent the rout of HBOS shares continuing into a third day.

If the theory is correct, we’re witnessing HM Government cutting up rough with the short-sellers who seem intent upon hammering HBOS into the ground.

In other words: Soprano-style media handling, in breach of insider trading rules, but carried out by government officials in the taxpayer’s interest.

Interesting times. Here’s Peston’s blog.

And here’s the comment:

Another broadsheet had the story last night but couldn’t stand it up. Much shouty-shouty down the blower from the HBOS flacks. Lots of hacks and their editors being ubercautious at the moment, and a good thing too, who wants to get it wrong when the market’s as stable as Amy Winehouse on a bender?

Another commenter suggests that a leak to Peston might have been triggered by a Today interview with Steven Bell, the hedge fund economist, just before 9am. Asked by John Humphreys whether depositors’ money was safe in HBOS, Bell replied: “I don’t know”.

This seems unlikely (the timings don’t stack up). But the conspiracy theories certainly will continue to pile up. Still, no one is willing to bet against Peston. The BBC’s business editor is having a good crisis.

If Alphaville is interpreting the crash for the market, Peston’s blog doing the same for policymakers and the general public.

This is not to everyone’s taste. At Alphaville, a commenter called Prometheus posts this: “Jeez I hope Peston is wrong, we will never hear the end of [it]. . . Peston is the man. Peston for pm. I met peston and got his autograph. I shook Pestons Hand. Peston is God. No No No somebody save me.

Sorry mate, but I think you’ll have to live with it. . .

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