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POSTED: Monday, October 06, 2008

NATION

Traders smiling through the pain

On Wall Street, a black day is almost always followed by black humor.

Over the last two weeks, in trading floor jokes, finance blogs, videos circulated on YouTube and doctored photos sent by e-mail between traders, Wall Street's tradition of gallows humor has been alive and well.

Here is one example making the rounds: "What's the difference between a Lehman trader and a pigeon? A pigeon can still make a deposit on a Ferrari."

A 45-slide presentation of stick figures explaining the subprime mortgage, which first circulated earlier this year, has found renewed life on the Web, as has a video of the British comedians John Bird and John Fortune explaining subprime mortgages that has been a hit on YouTube. The skit features a fictional investment banker named George Parr explaining the mortgage crisis as bankers packaging "dodgy debts" and then selling them off as "structured investment vehicles."

Cafepress, an e-commerce firm that allows users to design images and write phrases, then have them stamped on products like T-shirts, coffee mugs, stickers and buttons, has reported a boom in the sale of bailout-related merchandise.

Some favorite phrases at Cafepress: "Laymenoff Brothers"; "Lehman stockholder: will work for food"; "venti bailout, no froth"; and "Merrill Lynched me."

"Until recently weeks, most of the activity was political," said Amy Maniatis, vice president for marketing at Cafepress. "With the bailout talk, within the last week we've seen a huge surge in uploads in socialist references, like, 'People's Republic of Wall Street,' with Paulson at the center."

 

Air crashes affect stocks differently

A major crash usually weighs heavily on an airline's stock, but the impact is felt less heavily in the share price of the plane's manufacturer, according to a recent study.

Airlines typically suffer for up to three months after a major catastrophe, compared with only a week and a half for manufacturing companies, according to San Diego State University researchers. They also found that disasters have little or no effect on the long-term pricing of any stock, according to Kuntara Pukthuanthong-Le, an SDSU finance professor who led the study.

"We were surprised that stock was impacted as much as it was in the short-term, especially in instances where the market should have recognized that it was an accident that had occurred," she said.

The declines are a result of investors' anticipation of legal liability claims, which the airlines are more likely to see than the manufacturers - even if the accident was the result of equipment failure, she said.

The study looked at a sample of 174 aviation accidents around the world between 1950 and 2004.

 

Game-geek stereotype dispelled

Just because you're into online role-playing games, it doesn't mean you're chubby, male and covered in pimples. The game-geek stereotype has come under fire from researchers at the University of Southern California, who found that gamers are older and fitter, and that the most hard-core players are women.

"The players aren't radically different than the general population. They are us," says Dmitri Williams, an assistant professor who surveyed 7,000 players of the role-playing game EverQuest II.

Just 6.6 percent of the gamers were teens, while 37 percent were in their 30s. The gamers - who averaged 23 hours of play a week - were 10 percent leaner than most Americans and said they exercised "vigorously" once or twice a week, more than the average American.

But the gamers' lives are not completely rosy. Twenty-two percent are obese. On average, they are 20 percent more likely to develop a substance addiction and 50 percent more likely to get depressed, according to data from Sony, which makes the game.