Merger Fails, but Market Pundits Retain the Bullishness It Brought

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, and the differences between the two are telling. When UAL fell apart in October 1989, it spelled the end of the big leveraged-buyout deals and sparked a wave of selling in the stock market. Autumn 1989 was a pretty miserable time on Wall Street.

"UAL was when the market was at a fever pitch," says Obitex's Smith. "That was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back." That day, the Dow dropped 200 points (7%, back in those days) to close at 2569.

Tuesday, nine years later, a busted merger didn't nearly hurt so badly. The Dow fell 40 points -- and that had more to do with Greenspan-inspired tremors in the bond market than anything else.