WALL STREET: Finger Shaker

Said a top Federal Reserve Board official last week: "We thought we had an obligation to warn the elevator operators that it is one thing to buy stocks for cash and another thing to use borrowed money." With that, FRB suddenly announced a boost in margin requirements: investors would have to put up 60% cash to buy stocks instead of 50%.

FRB's unexpected action scared the stock market into the biggest sell-off since the start of the Korean war. As prices dropped, the high-speed reporting tape fell as much as 15 minutes behind floor transactions. Sitting in their boardrooms, brokers...

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