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Derivatives, said Warren Buffet, a renowned US investor, "Are the financial equivalent of weapons of mass destruction." He has certainly been proved right, with failing banks around the world showing that opaque financial instruments cannot mask the effect of reckless lending. After a lull in which it seemed that the rest of the economy might just avoid the worst effects of the banking crisis that started in August 2007, consumer demand, manufacturing and trade have all fallen precipitously and the global economy is in the grip of the worst downturn since the 1930s.
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