Only a few weeks ago, things were rosy on Wall Street . . . well, as rosy as things can get in the money maelstrom of Manhattan.
The Dow Jones Industrial Index (DJIA) -- the chief benchmark for the U.S. stock market -- had surpassed the magic 14,000 mark. Most companies, including technology companies, were reporting solid quarterly gains.
According to the Business Week Global Information Technology Index, IT stocks were up over 6.9% in 2007. Computer & Peripherals (14.4%) and Seminconductors (9.5%) were doing even better.
So why are tech company CFO's acting crankier than Lindsey Lohan over last call? The answer can be found in the credit markets, where poor lending decisions in the sub-prime mortgage market have spilled over into the broader lending markets, with the ensuing credit crisis taking the stock market down with it.
With banks and other lenders licking their wounds over bad loans and loads of lost income, their reaction is a natural one: turn off the money spigots. Not just to the average home-mortgage customer, but to everybody. I'll have more on the mechanics of that process in my next blog, but the takeaway for technology companies is that it's become much more difficult to raise the capital they need to grow their businesses. You know, for operating expenses like new hires, new equipment, new advertising and marketing campaigns. With most lenders going from a flashing yellow light to a flashing red light in recent weeks, credit has become tighter and harder for everyone to get.
The national media has gone to town on this issue, printing every rumor and slapping big headlines on their front pages saying that the credit crisis could bring the economy down. Stock market guru Jim Cramer had a meltdown on his popular CNBC show the other night, and financial pundits everywhere are touting the stock market's ills with all the intensity of a fight over doggy bones at Michael Vick's house.
But let's take a chill pill. Nobody's job is in peril, and technology companies aren't looking at layoffs as a credible belt-tightening option. Consumer confidence is up, business remains good, and, if anything, tech companies may slow new hires down or cut back on a new ad campaign, but that's about it. They'll ride this out with the rest of us and soon, when credit loosens up again (probably triggered by a Federal Reserve rate cut), money will be plentiful again and all will be well.
After all, birds gotta fly and banks gotta lend. That's what they do. Sure, money is tougher to come by now but once the stock market works its credit and lending woes out of its system, which is what we are seeing now, the credit picture will brighten.
It's just a matter of when . . .