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Fri, Sep 14, 2001 - Page 24 News List

World Business: Capitalism strikes back to fight doubt

ECONOMIC IMPACTExperts predict the US attacks were likely to result in a negative reading for third-quarter GDP growth without inflicting permanent economic damage


Policy makers and central banks around the world are pulling out the stops to prevent the US terror attacks from so unhinging business and consumer confidence that a recession becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Robert McTeer spoke for many on Wednesday when he said it was too soon to determine the economic impact of the attacks.

"It won't depend as much on what happened as how we react," he said.

McTeer was optimistic about the economic outlook and said historically, market reaction to disasters has been short-lived.

That sentiment was shared by many financial analysts and investment banks, with J.P. Morgan calling the attack a significant but very temporary blow to the economy.

In its first assessment of the economic damage of Tuesday's terror strikes, Morgan said the disruption to travel and retail activity was likely to result in a negative reading for US third-quarter gross domestic product growth.

"However, there will not be lasting disruptions to the US economy or its financial system," the bank said. "A return to normalcy should be evident by next week."

Longer term, it depended on the US political and military response to the attack. A limited reaction against terrorist groups would have little economic impact.

"In contrast, a conflict that directly involves another nation state -- particularly an oil producing nation -- would have much more serious ramifications," the investment bank said.

Confidence chorus

Japan's top government spokesman said yesterday it was natural for the Group of Seven countries to coordinate for global financial stability in the wake of the US attacks.

"It is natural that the G7 should do its best to pursue our common interest," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said.

Japan's top financial diplomat, Haruhiko Kuroda, said he expected that a meeting of G7 finance ministers scheduled for Sept. 28 would "naturally be held," though he had yet to get official notice that it was going ahead.

Annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF are expected to be cancelled, stirring some talk the G7 meeting might also be called off.

G7 finance ministers and central bankers issued a statement on Wednesday saying they were "committed to ensuring this tragedy will not be compounded by disruption to the global economy" and they "stand ready to take further action as necessary."

The IMF added an upbeat declaration of its own, saying it expected only a limited impact on the global economy from the attacks and it stood ready to help countries that may need it.

"Our present assessment is that, despite the scale of the human tragedy, these terrible events will have only a limited impact on the international economy and global financial system," IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler said.

Adding to the chorus, Swiss National Bank Vice-Chairman Bruno Gehrig said he expected the US stock market to bounce back quickly, helping restore calm to jittery global markets.

"I assume, at the start, there will be a certain decline, but I would be amazed if there would be a collapse, as some fear," he said, voicing hope that an American sense of solidarity and patriotism would keep sentiment strong despite the shock.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission said it was considering the unusual step of easing restrictions on corporate share buybacks to help provide liquidity when markets do reopen.

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