Ready for the Final Exam


I saw the writer Joseph O'Connor quoted approvingly in this paper the other day by a young woman who was in complete agreement with his views on Leaving Cert exams. Joe has asserted that God tests us by continuous assessment: "There will be no written examination on judgement day, so if it's good enough for God, why the hell couldn't it be good enough for the Irish education system?"

This is all very fine, but how can Joe be so sure of what will transpire on judgement day? For all he knows there may well be two three-hour written exams - or a whole fortnight of tests, since God can by definition stretch judgement day out for as many hours as he cares to. And the exams are unlikely to be namby-pamby multiple-choice efforts either.

Incidentally, those who worry about exam failure and the prospect of eternal damnation should be comforted by St Paul's assertion that the recording angel, who has a list of all sins (on CD-ROM, no doubt), only takes note for punishment purposes of those committed in the last five years of life.

The trick obviously lies in knowing when you have started your final five-year run - which may not be as impossible as it sounds. For a start, if you have just made a will, you have, on average, only four years of your life left. (Despite the best efforts of financial advisers, most people postpone making a will until late in life). So start living an honest life now, and the recording angel will only have to consider the terrible things you did in the past year.

Right. Following my analysis of the Yamaichi affair I have been asked for an explanation of the more commonly-used terms when major market upheavals are reported.

The Domino Effect. This has nothing to do with the popular if slightly ridiculous game, but derives from the legendary jazz musician and stock market speculator Fats Domino, whose end-of-session speciality was to fall flat on his face, at which point the other members of his band would follow his example.

Shock Waves. Heavy-metal band which travels to financial markets worldwide conveying bad news by means of loud music.

The Sidelines. Where investors sit to enjoy particularly exciting market action. Under no circumstances are they allowed to invade the pitch.

The Shadows. Where the larger and shyer investors prefer to stay (or "linger").

Move to dampen panic. This is a popular headline you will often read, but it is much misunderstood. Giuseppe Move (pron: Moh-veh) was an Italian broker from Milan about 30 years back who got into the panic-dampening field before anyone else. He refined the rather crude measures in vogue at the time: Move Panic Dampeners still dominates the field and is invariably the first to be called on in times of crisis.

Hugely Volatile. Another verbal corruption, and another Italian: "Huge" Lee Volatile was a massive Sicilian with a short temper who terrified dealers and made a fortune buying "long" on the international commodities markets in the 1960s. Lee retired to his native Sicily 15 years ago where he now breeds Bhutanese chihuahuas, but his name survives as a by-word for market nervousness.

The Wall Street Response. A stunning dance sequence originally choreographed by the great Merce Cunningham, this is performed at irregular intervals by specially-trained brokers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as a tribute to exciting developments on other international markets.

Blood on the Streets. Mr Nick Knight, global strategist at Nomura Securities, made the following remark after the Yamaichi collapse: "It is often the case that blood on the streets is a good signal." Many people presumed that Knight was talking figuratively. He wasn't.

Bubble Economy. Japanese boom of the 1980s fuelled by soaring worldwide demand for gum products.

Trigger Level. Named after the famous horse who used to help out Roy Rogers at moments of crisis in his crimebusting career, this is a metal lever on the stock market floor which functions like the "deadman" brake on a train, springing into service when share prices begin to plummet.

Crisis of Confidence. Means the opposite.