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Financial Supermarkets Fail -- Again

Stocks in this article: AXPC

They say that those who forget history are bound to repeat it, so be prepared for the financial supermarket to return with a vengeance. That's because the business media, no more rooted in the past than a June bug, have lost count of how many times we've been down this failed road before.

Brace yourself for a moment before you read this lead of an Associated Press story:

"The original financial supermarket is dead. Citigroup (C) signaled the end of a decade-long experiment to create one-stop shopping for financial services -- everything from consumer loans to investment banking -- with Tuesday's announcement that it was merging its Smith Barney brokerage into a joint venture with Morgan Stanley."

The Associated Press was not confused -- it was merely wrong. But this morning's Wall Street Journal was a bit confused, caught in a neat declaration that glosses over history and reality:

"Mr. Weill started building what would become Citigroup with his 1986 purchase of Commercial Credit, a struggling consumer-finance company based in Baltimore. Over the next 12 years, he acquired ever-larger financial institutions. The 1998 deal that formed Citigroup, at the time one of the largest in history, was initially trumpeted as precedent-setting."

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