CRASH COURSE? Have you been borrowing money to buy more stocks? So has everybody else, it seems. Margin debt has increased an alarming 62% over the past year. Is this the canary in the coal mine? Such thoughts are on the mind of Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who openly expressed worry about the increase--or at least said he was "thinking" about it, which is enough to worry the rest of us. The propensity for people to buy things that they don't have the money for is one reason the Fed is expected to raise interest rates this week. The only question is, How high? That's one the market struggled with as the Dow Jones sagged 4.6%.
POOR LURE With so much competition among mutual-fund companies, some are trying to woo new investors by offering premiums. Baron funds reportedly plans to offer hotel discounts, while Strong and Montgomery funds are handing out subscriptions to personal-finance magazines; Westcore is drawing names to win $250 worth of shares this April. You would think that fund companies would try to distinguish themselves with, oh, say, their fund performance. When they start handing out toasters, run!
PACK YOUR BAGS Whiling away your workday dreaming of your next vacation? Better dial your travel agent or get on the Web, because it looks as if Europe is the trip of the year. Last week the euro continued its yearlong decline, slipping below parity with the dollar. It was an important psychological barrier, and experts expect the beleaguered currency will continue its slide over the next few months. On the negative side, that means U.S. exports are getting progressively more expensive for European buyers. But cafes in Paris and pensiones in Rome are getting cheaper by the day. The buying power of the dollar has increased 16.4% in the past year.
--By Anamaria Wilson