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The Import Of It All

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This is where things start to seem complicated, and maybe even a little weird.

You might have thought that all the hand-wringing over the Oct. 27, stock-market misstep would be done, since by early last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had retrieved most of its lost ground. If you had gone on vacation Friday, Oct. 24, then returned Thursday, Nov. 6, not much changed.

But looks can deceive. As much as we'd like to consider the crises in Asian markets quarantined, they may reach beyond. Plus we've got some quirks here at home to throw into the mix.

Where a dazzling New Economy once held the spotlight, uncertainty has edged closer to center stage, and stock markets abhor uncertainty.

First, let your gaze drift to the right. Correspondent Jim Tyson tells the story of blue-collar workers starting to ride on this juggernaut economy.

Men like Walt Benewicz bring home upwards of $50,000 a year. They know more, produce more, and are more in demand than at anytime in the last decade.

It's the kind of story that probably gives Alan Greenspan the jitters.

Mr. Greenspan doubtless does not begrudge Mr. Benewicz a decent wage. But we'll get to that later.

First ... Asia.

Think about the problems in Asia this way. A lot of you probably have some sort of basket in your homes. I know the McCormick household has a devotion to woven twigs not unlike the one Bill Clinton once felt toward campaign contributions. Very cozy. And, as with the president, the objects of our devotion often started their journeys in such places as Indonesia, China, and Thailand.

The danger now is that instead of just importing Asian baskets, the US may start to import Asian basket cases.

The experts describe it as "importing Asia's deflation."

The idea is that the value of Asian goods has dropped drastically. Currencies in many Southeast Asian countries have been devalued by at least third, which means that where a shirt, or basket, made in Thailand last year cost $15, it will now cost about $10. Good news for you. Bad news for the Thai workers.


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