Where is Ms. Bette Davis when you need her?

Even if she had done nothing else, the big-eyed actress would have achieved immortality for the way she delivered her famous line in “All About Eve.”

That line–”Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night”–has been quoted (usually incorrectly) by millions of people who never saw the 1950 film that won 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also won for best screenplay.

Now, I don’t blame you if at this point you’re wondering ‘Where the heck is Piontek going with this?’

So I guess I have to admit that dwelling on a movie that I love is my way of avoiding getting to the point of this column, which is the stream of bad economic news that has been cascading into our collective laps over the past few weeks and shows no signs of abating, at least in the short term.

As more and more companies reveal the carnage that the subprime mortgage mess has done to their earnings and/or viability, it’s like watching rock after rock being overturned only to be disgusted by what is crawling underneath.

Yet, the drumbeat of bad news has a perversely grim fascination, something akin to being unable to take one’s eyes off Medusa and her crown of snakes.

We’re not talking small fry damage here. The litany of brand names in the financial world that have taken a beating is pretty staggering. There is Merrill Lynch, of course, and Citigroup, both of whom now have jettisoned their CEOs primarily due to the companies being whiplashed by the subprime tornado.

But let’s not forget AIG, which just took a big writedown. And Morgan Stanley, which took an even bigger hit. There have been others too and undoubtedly there will be more.

Adding to these woes is the price of oil which is nearing $100 a barrel as I write this. And let’s not forget the ever-weakening dollar. And what about the housing market that is caught in the credit crisis grip of the fallout from the subprime mortgage mess.

Is it any wonder that consumers are getting more and more nervous and that the biggest fear of all among some economy-watchers is that they may stop spending and thus pull out the props that have been buoying the economy? Then what?

Yesterday the stock market plunged 360 points as the falling dollar, earnings ravaged by subprime woes and General Motors’ $39 billion loss (noncash) due to a tax credit writedown combined to give investors the willies.

The thing that everyone would love to know, of course, is how long this pain is going to last and when things will start to turn around.

My guess is that the further into next year one goes the safer is the bet that the turning point will start to appear. At present, there are still too many unknowns about who owns the remaining $100 billion of assorted subprime assets (!) that somehow have not yet been accounted for.

The fact that so many platinum-standard companies could have been taken in by the subprime fiasco does anything but instill confidence in these big-time players.

Yes, it certainly does look like “it’s going to be a bumpy night.” And then some.

Steve Piontek

Editor-in-Chief

Quote

“As more and more companies reveal the carnage that the subprime mortgage mess has done to their earnings and/or viability, it’s like watching rock after rock being overturned only to be disgusted by what is crawling underneath.”