Tuesday, April 11, 2006

BUY BUY BUY ... Goats?

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 11 — Falah al-Ogaidy squinted through his glasses at the numbers scrawled across white boards at the Iraq Stock Exchange.

The share value of the Baghdad Soft Drinks Company hovered at 2 dinars. It had not budged in three trading sessions. Mr. Ogaidy sighed. He owns four million shares, worth about $5,400 on that recent morning.

"The prices after the war were so high," said Mr. Ogaidy, who imports Chinese sewing machines. "People were happy, thinking there would be a good economy and stability. But everything happened the other way around."

Guards with Kalashnikov rifles stand outside next to razor wire and concrete blast walls. The ringing of a silver school bell at 10 a.m. announces a session's start. Shouting and hand-waving fill the room, and cups of thick Turkish coffee are passed around. Another clanging at noon signals the close.

Analysts and investors rattle off an endless ticker tape of reasons for the downturn: the threat of full-scale civil war, the virulent insurgency, lack of a government, a shaky economy, a dearth of foreign money and of course an unemployment rate of 60 percent..

If stock markets are any measure of a nation's confidence, then the numbers at the nascent Iraq Stock Exchange show that faith in the country may be at its lowest ebb.

When asked for a comment, President Bush said that the situation was a prime example of how everyone in America looks at the glass as half empty. “This represents a great buying opportunity. If you were looking to get in on the ground floor, exchange traded shares in date merchants are at an all time low right now!”

Just when you thought all the profits were to be found in oil. (Who knew?)


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