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Are Merrill's Fixed Income Traders Slacking Off?

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To judge from the comments and our email, many of our readers think we’ve lost our minds on Merrill Lynch. We were impressed by the performance of Thain and Co. on this morning’s earnings call and wrote a good deal about it early this morning. We thought it was a strong performance but readers point out that shares of Merrill have been plummeting all day long. They say this indicates that the market doesn’t buy our evaluation of the earnings call. We’re not so sure. It may have been far worse if Thain and his guys had come off as badly at Vikram Pandit’s guys did on Tuesday.
We aren’t yet at the point where we’re going to be swallowing Thain’s kool-aid but our attention to his words might have led us to overlook something in his interview with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo. This afternoon Street Insider points out that the interview took place on the fixed income trading floor. Why do it there? Well, perhaps to prove that people are still trading fixed income—or that the place has totally been totally cleaned up since that unspeakable incident we wouldn’t stop talking about earlier this week and last week. (Update: They were on the seventh floor, twelve floors below the scene of last week's crime.)
But this might not have had the desired effect. The traders on the fixed income floor seemed oddly unoccupied, gathering in the background and looking at their boss—or perhaps themselves—on television monitors. This has people wondering why these folks weren’t busy engaging in actual trading.
“Traders usually do not have time to do many other things, than trade, but this morning this small group of traders were more concerned with their tv appearance than making money for Merrill Lynch,” Street Insider says. “I don't know if this should tell you something about how John Thain runs Merrill, or if this was just a few traders that had a slight lapse in judgment, in what has been very tough days for Merrill Lynch workers in recent weeks.”
Merrill Lynch Traders Do Not Appear Too Busy [Street Insider]