The NYT leads its front page with a look at signs of recession across the country as the financial crisis spreads to the economy. There’s nothing particularly new here except for a couple of anecdotes, one of which provides our Quote of the Day.

In Oklahoma City, Aunt Pittypat’s Catering has lost one-fifth of its business in the last two months, as $25,000 weddings are scaled down to smaller affairs.

“People are just being a lot more conservative,” said Maggie Howell, a co-owner. “They want crab and seafood, but they’re settling for cheese displays.”

The Times quotes economists who say the economy’s probably not going to slow that much, though in its own analysis the paper gets at why this downturn is likely to be worse than the last.

What is shaping up as the second recession of the 2000s is the product of declines in home values, which play a far bigger role in most Americans’ personal finances than the stock market. Households have borrowed against the increased value of their property to buy cars, send their children to college and add home theater systems.

“This is the bedrock asset for the lion’s share of the population of the United States,” Mr. Barbera said. “It’s not like dot-com stocks, where I bought Webvan for 1,000 times the imaginary earnings, and now it’s worth nothing but I go and have a beer. You’re talking about the value of people’s houses.”

The story does note the drop in economic bellwether FedEx’s profits and outlook. The WSJ’s incomplete story tells us FedEx’s profit fell but not by how much. That’s kind of a key piece of info there.


France invades Spanish utilities


The WSJ fronts and leads its Business & Finance column with a scoop today that the French state utility company and a Spanish construction giant are teaming up to bid more than $100 billion for two Spanish utilities.

The paper says regulators are likely to raise serious questions about the cross-border deal, but if completed it would “reshape the European energy landscape”

Thank God it’s (Good) Friday

The Dow whipsawed—again—gaining 261.66 points (2.2 percent) this time on huge jumps in financial-sector stocks, which were up about 7 percent. Nasdaq was also up 2.2 percent while the S&P 500 popped 3.2 percent.

But there will be no huge swings today, mister! Markets are closed in observance of Good Friday, something Bloomberg says has been observed since the (other) Panic of ’07.

Fed meds do the trick

Bloomberg says “the biggest commodity collapse in at least five decades” may mean the Fed has really removed much of the doubts about Wall Street’s solvency. A commodity-price index fell more than 8 percent this week.

“Clearly they’ve gotten some stability,” said Keith Hembre, a former Fed researcher and chief economist at FAF Advisors Inc. in Minneapolis, which oversees more than $107 billion in assets.

“You have to stand back and say, for the time being, it looks to be a pretty successful combination of moves that have worked.”

The WSJ says Wall Street is unloading its junk debt on the Fed quickly. So far they’ve borrowed more than $13 billion a day from the new program. The paper implies the Street isn’t being totally forthright (shock!) about the extent of its borrowing:

Some Wall Street executives have suggested they were using the overnight-lending program to borrow small amounts, but the size of the total borrowing suggests broader interest from the 20 securities dealers eligible for the loans.

The Europeans were also forced to dump money into the markets on problems with German giant IKB Deutsche Industriebank and further “rumors about banks’ creditworthiness proliferating and banks hoarding cash,” the WSJ says.

Short-term Treasury yields fell to fifty-year lows as investors sought the safety of government money.

Who, me?

Alan Greenspan continues his worldwide “I Didn’t Do It” tour, telling The Washington Post he’s not to blame whatsoever for the state of the financial system just a few days after absolving himself (or at least not implicating himself) on the Financial Times’s opinion pages.

Murdoch in talks on Newsday? Oy.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.