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Fed optimism fuels late US rally

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Optimism that the Fed will keep obliging with interest rate reductions, and that other governments would act sensibly to solve the problems with the global economy drove the Dow up 2 per cent and Nasdaq up 5 per cent on Friday, compensating somewhat for the 12 per cent fall in the first four days of the week. JP Morgan is now predicting a 1999 recession, with consumer and business expenditure slowing. It's Columbus Day today, partly observed in the US, with the stock markets open but banks and government offices mostly closed. The Nikkei reached a 13-year low on Friday, losing 146 points to 12,880, while the yen was 117 against the dollar. Merrill Lynch has cut its growth forecast for Japan to a 2.5 per cent contraction until March 2000, and predicted 157 yen to the dollar within six months and 170 to the dollar by March 2000. A problem for Japanese financial institutions is that many are unhedged in their currency deals, so worse is probably yet to come. The dollar is not doing to well either: it has fallen 10 percent against the DM, and 17 per cent against the yen in the past six weeks. Steve Case, AOL's CEO sold 250,000 shares and AOL execs generally have sold 1.8 million shares for around $200 million. AOL fell 14 per cent last week. Could there be a message here? PointCast is expected to announce a strategic alliance , according to CEO David Dorman, following its decision to stop its IPO earlier this year. Novell is being tipped as a buy by Jonathan Steinberg, one of the top four investment tippers in the US, because of NetWare 5 and the turnaround being well underway. He forecasts 25 cents/share for FY98, ending 30 November, and 46 cents the following year. Novell disposed of its Corel shares as part of its WordPerfect disposal, it was reported, for a pittance of $14,000. Dell put on 9 per cent (yet fell 16 per cent on the week), Compaq 10 per cent, Gateway 5 per cent, Apple 14 per cent, Microsoft 6 per cent (falling 7 per cent on the week), Intel 7 per cent, Cisco 7 per cent (but 10 per cent down on the week). Yahoo, despite rather good results, fell 17 per cent on the week. SAP said Q3 revenue would be up 43 per cent, pushing it up 13 percent, while JD Edwards steamed up 20 per cent. This is all a bit surprising, with many financial analysts believing that the market has not yet hit the bottom. Forrester Research is painting a gloomy picture of PC sales in the middle term. Although Y2K replacements will help 1999 sales to increase 14 per cent, there will be excess capacity by mid-2000 as corporate buyers shy away from new purchases because of disturbing Y2K arrangements. US 1999 PC revenue is predicted at $55.2 billion, with 1998 revenue at $53.5 billion. However, in 2000 Forrester sees a 14 per cent decline to $47.4 billion, followed by two years of zero growth. ® Click for more stories

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