It was a week of soap operas on Wall Street.
On the last trading day of October, the Dow Jones industrial average was headed for the largest monthly gains in its 112-year history.
But that was the day investors found out that Greece Prime Minister George Papandreou had decided he would allow the fate of the international rescue package for Greece -- a $180 billion deal -- to be decided by a public referendum.
The Dow, along with every other major stock index around the globe, instantly hit the skids. It turns out, more than a few investors noticed the news articles about the mass demonstrations in Athens and national strikes that signaled a populist opposition to the international bailout plans that were, in the short term, keeping Greece from default.
Stunned by this news, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to talk, cajole and then simply threaten Greece to have Papandreou retract this absurd notion of having the taxpayers who would pay the price for the Greek rescue decide its fate.
Papandreou then said, "Well, maybe."
It was not diplomacy's finest hour, but there it was: "Well, maybe." Papandreou explained that, in fact, the referendum would only come about if Greek lawmakers approved the idea.
So, while France and Germany decided to put a hold on a check for $11 billion that Greece needs before December, everyone was back to square one.
That doesn't count the infinite number of mini-soap operas now in session in Athens or the major soap operas in Cannes, France, where leaders of the Group of 20 Nations gathered for an international powwow. Look for a memo at the end of the meeting that says, "Peace has been restored," or "Papandreou admits to temporary brain-melt."
Not incidentally, MF Global filed for Chapter 11 protection in the eighth largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. Chief Executive Officer Jon Corzine, the former governor of New Jersey, resigned Friday and will not seek severance pay, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Meanwhile, without even hosing down the Occupy Wall Street crowd with disinfectant, Nabors Industries Ltd. is handing Eugene Isenberg, its chairman and CEO, $100 million in severance pay, even though he is not retiring.
Isenberg managed for himself the mother of all perks: He gets to keep his job as chairman and collect his severance pay, because, at 81, he is handing his CEO duties to Anthony Petrello, which means his job description has changed enough to obligate the company to release his massive retirement pay.
In international markets Friday, the Nikkei 225 index rose 1.86 percent and the Shanghai composite index in China gained 0.81 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 3.12 percent and the Sensex in India rose 0.46 percent.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 climbed 2.62 percent.
In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain rose 0.41 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany shed 0.92 percent. The CAC 40 in France dropped 0.15 percent and the Stoxx Europe 600 was flat, falling less than 0.1 percent.
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