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Traders Skeptical of Bin Laden Bounce

Saudi-dissident Osama Bin Laden sits on floor with his AK-47 rifle in his hide outs in Afghanistan 08 November, 2001. Osama bin Laden in an interview with a Pakistani newspaper denied reports he had been hospitalized in Dubai for kidney treatment.
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Saudi-dissident Osama Bin Laden sits on floor with his AK-47 rifle in his hide outs in Afghanistan 08 November, 2001. Osama bin Laden in an interview with a Pakistani newspaper denied reports he had been hospitalized in Dubai for kidney treatment.

Although the dollar and stocks rallied as news of the killing of Osama bin Laden spread, some hedge fund traders are expecting a quick reversal.

I talked about the effect of bin Laden's death with three hedge fund traders over coffee in the lobby of a Los Angeles hotel. They were in L.A. for the Milken Institute's annual "Global Conference." They spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"We're all happy that he's dead. And in some ways it feels wrong to be thinking about markets right after this victory. But that's what we're paid to do," one of them explained.

All three said they expected an initial rally of the dollar and stocks. But they each warned that the rally might be short-lived.

"Watch what the government does. If airport security gets tighter, that means the US government is expecting retaliation. Any counter-strike by terrorists would instantly deflate the market," one of the traders said.

All three agreed that the central question was whether the world was a safer or more dangerous place now that Bin Laden is dead.

"If Bin Laden was still operationally directing al Qaeda, then taking him out hurts them. We don't really know how important he was to the organization," one trader said.

"If he was just the symbolic leader, he could be more valuable dead, as a martyr," another trader said.

The third trader was more bullish. He pointed out that markets are often dominated by sentiment. If the American people goes into a celebratory mood on the news, that could be good for markets, he said.

"What happens to consumer sentiment? It goes up. When people feel good, they spend more. That's good for business, good for markets," he said.

The other two traders weren't confident that sentiment would improve on the news.

"People haven't been thinking of terrorism lately. Now they've just been reminded that al Qaeda still exists, is still targeting us. That's a negative," one said.

"Well get a bin Laden bounce but it probably won't stick. The reality is that this could make the whole world more turbulent, which will put further pressure on oil prices. What happens if this moves the Saudis to rise up against their government? What happens if Pakistan's government goes down? Today the world is less certain than it was Friday. Macro, that's a bearish fact pattern," the other said.

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