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"A View From Across The Pond" an Englishman's personal view of the week's news in the USA - from Erithacus

The stockmarkets finished the week on a gloomy note, despite sudden rises mid-week. Although the Nasdaq ended Friday just 14.07 down on the day and actually 218.85 points up on the week, the Dow Jones had lost 84.17 points by close of business and was 136.13 down for the week at 10,525.38. Paradoxically, selling on Friday intensified after a government report on wholesale prices indicated that the slowing of the economy might not be as serious as anticipated, and this cast doubts on whether the Federal Reserve would make a further cut in interest rates as had been expected. Reports from both Hewlett Packard and Gateway blamed economic conditions for a surprise downturn in sales, but analysts pointed to the rise in the Nasdaq earlier in the week as an indication that perhaps confidence is returning. "Maybe the tide has changed," said one analyst, "The Nasdaq has had every excuse to plunge the last few days, especially because of bad earnings, but it hasn't."

President-elect George Bush indicated this week that he would be taking a hard look at some of the legislation and initiatives put in place by President Clinton. In particular, he told reporters during a 75-minute interview at his farmhouse in Crawford, Texas, he was unhappy with the regulations that put nearly 60 million acres of the nation's forests off limits to development. He also made it clear that it was his intention to curtail much foreign aid, particularly to Russia where the United States has spent $2.3 billion since 1992 promoting democracy, the rule of law, and market reforms. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, in both of which the United States is the largest single shareholder, have similarly issued loans to Russia over the same period for a further $30 billion. He also said he wanted to put legislation in place that would prevent American money flowing into international organisations involved in activities that America might consider undesirable either politically or morally. Mr Bush again stressed his intention to cut taxes with a package amounting to $1.6 trillion over 10 years, and at the same time acknowledged his error in commenting on the Federal Reserve’s action to cut interest rates. He confirmed the Fed’s position as independent, adding that he realised its actions should not be publicly evaluated by the President.

Perhaps the most bizarre story of the week is about a new invention called "IT" and codenamed "Ginger". Invented by 49-year-old scientist Dean Kamen, it has provoked much speculation when Harvard Business School Press executive editor Hollis Heimbouch paid $250,000 for a book about it, apparently even without knowing exactly what it is or what it does. "It's an amazing invention that will revolutionize the world! It'll be bigger than the Internet" we are told. And that seems to be all we are being told, except that investor Credit Suisse First Boston "expects Kamen's invention to make more money in its first year than any startup in history, predicting Kamen will be worth more in five years than Bill Gates." I wonder – could it be the first truly great hoax of this century? Or not? No doubt we will all know shortly.

13th January 2001                        


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