Shell shocked: American finance in crisis

A lot can happen in four weeks. Between early September and the first week of October the landscape of American finance was transformed at breathtaking pace. First, the United States Treasury put Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored enterprises with their more than $5 trillion in mortgages under management or guarantee, in conservatorship. Second, the Federal Reserve provided an unprecedented loan to American International Group (AIG), the world's largest insurance company, to ke