The official bounty for Osama bin Laden’s capture of $25m proved insufficient for associates to betray him during a decade as the world’s most wanted man. Perhaps the US government could have saved itself time and effort by offering something more akin to a market price, which is closer to $75bn judging by the financial world’s initial reaction to his death.
过去十年中，本·拉登(Osama bin Laden)一直是全球头号通缉犯，事实证明，2500万美元的官方悬赏未能诱惑手下背叛他。如果美国政府一开始就把赏金设定地更接近市场价值，或许早就省却了不少时间和精力。按照金融市场的最初反应估算，本·拉登之死的“市值”接近750亿美元。
Equity futures jumped and oil prices fell late on Sunday, moderating by morning. Even with the more restrained half a per cent opening gain in the S& 500, though, owners of US equities were about $70bn richer. And if the initial $1.75-a- barrel drop in crude futures could be sustained for just a month – WTI rebounded later – global energy consumers would be about $5bn better off.
The fact that these dollar figures are nearly identical to those on 15 December 2003, the Monday morning after Saddam Hussein was captured, suggests that traders buy or sell on headlines and ask questions later. If killing the terrorist mastermind does as little to hamper al-Qaeda’s activities as Mr Hussein’s capture did to quell the Sunni insurgency, then the ultimate impact will be fleeting or even negative. Indeed, equities shed all of their gains by the end of the day after his capture.
But, leaving knee-jerk reactions aside, perhaps we give markets too little credit. Take the far larger impact of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, which wiped some $1,400bn off US equity markets once they reopened days later. The attacks caused insured losses of nearly $40bn, cost New York City alone about $95bn in economic activity, sapped $10bn in revenue from US airlines and spawned wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have cost $1,290bn. In other words, the market got the economic cost almost exactly right.
Even initial gains on a villain’s capture are real if quickly monetised. Perhaps victory in the war on terror might be swifter if informants were persuaded to accept payment in stock futures.