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The Greenspan Effect [Secure eReader]
eBook by David B. Sicilia & Jeffrey L. Cruikshank

eBook Category: Politics/Government/Business
eBook Description: The United States Federal Reserve System has played a key role in U.S. economic affairs since it was established in 1913. Still, it has never enjoyed the unprecedented power and influence it wields today over global financial markets.

eBook Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: June 2002

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"Who needs gold when we have Greenspan?"
The New York Times, May 4, 1999

"Greenspan comments trigger afternoon sell-off"
The Financial Times, May 7, 1999

"Greenspan speaks: the world trembles"
The European, July 27, 1998

"Street revels in the Greenspan rally, but will it last?"
Barron's, October 19, 1998

"All eyes on Al"
The Economist, September 26, 1998

"Greenspan's words taken for golden"
The New York Times, September 8, 1998

He has never held elected office or starred in a Hollywood block-buster. He has never created or commanded a huge multinational corporation. He has never birdied at the Masters, or shattered a home run record. In fact, his chosen profession is almost the antithesis of the power we associate with a President or a dictator, the glamour of a movie star, the bold vision of a pioneering entrepreneur, or the physical achievements of a sports superstar.

He is an economist. He toils in the dry vineyards of what John Maynard Keynes referred to as "the dismal science." Along with his more obscure colleagues, he would seem to define everything that is clinical, unsexy, rarefied, and irrelevant.

Economists? Rather than being celebrated for their decisiveness, economists are derided for their ambivalence. Reacting to the constant "on the one hand, on the other hand" refrain of his advisors, Harry Truman wished aloud for a "one-handed economist."

And yet despite this unsavory pedigree, our subject has become a megacelebrity -- known, respected, feared, scrutinized, consulted, and quoted throughout the world. Like Madonna and Schwarzenegger, Gates and Turner, Jordan and McGwire, he is a single-name household word: Greenspan.

Greenspan's stature and power are celebrated almost daily in the business press. One journalist terms him "amazing"; another praises his "magnetism." The impact of Greenspan's words on financial markets is a constant theme: he is the "market leader"; "the market hangs on Greenspan's words"; he is "the man who moves, and scares, markets."

At times, the rhetoric verges on the reverential: Greenspan's "miracle cure"; Greenspan's "golden" words; Greenspan, the "high priest"; "In Greenspan we trust." One journalist recently was bold enough to assert that "Alan Greenspan isn't God." Would people write such things about mere mortals?

Who is Alan Greenspan, and why are people writing these things about him? As Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve System since 1987, Alan Greenspan has emerged as one of the most influential actors on the world economic stage. And although the Fed has played a key role in U.S. economic affairs since its establishment in 1913, the institution has never before wielded such influence, both domestically and internationally. This is an influence, moreover, that is only growing with each new financial crisis.

Potent, Mysterious -- and Comprehensible

The Fed's new potency results in part from the rapid globalization of trade, banking, and economic policymaking in the last generation. But it also results from the long shadow cast by its remarkable chairman. Alan Greenspan has held the reins of power for more than a decade, and in that period he has made few mistakes. During his tenure at the Fed, the U.S. economy has enjoyed its longest period of uninterrupted growth in history. Investors have watched joyously as the stock market has soared to heights that would have seemed unimaginable only months earlier. These successes came, moreover, against the backdrop of economic miseries in most other corners of the world.

These accomplishments are not Greenspan's alone, of course. But probably he deserves far more credit for them than, for example, the last two U.S. Presidents. Unlike the politicians, Greenspan has never allowed political distractions or personal foibles to interrupt his chosen course.

In spite of his singular importance, the Fed chairman remains mostly inaccessible to investors, policymakers, and the broader public. He rarely grants interviews. When he testifies before Congress on monetary policy, his language is intentionally clinical, tortured, and oblique, so as to minimize the disruptive effect of his words. Press coverage is thick but fragmented. To date, the only books about Greenspan's role at the Fed are dense tomes aimed at financial insiders.

Fortunately, there is another Greenspan. Unlike the sometimes obfuscating Congressional witness, this Greenspan is a well-traveled and lucid public speaker. He lays out his ideas regularly -- an average of roughly once every three weeks for the past 12 years -- before groups of bankers, economists, university students, civic associations, and other audiences. Taken together, this body of writings -- some 3500 pages of the Fed chairman's addresses between 1987 and 1999 -- capture his thinking on a broad range of key economic and social topics.

Key passages from these speeches, therefore, are at the heart of this book. They are the Fed chairman in his most unvarnished form. We supplement them with reports from the business press, precedents from business and economic history, and our own analysis and commentaries. We let Mr. Greenspan speak for himself by quoting liberally from his addresses, and we annotate these passages to help clarify the essence and significance of his ideas and positions. We hope that the result is a concise and accurate distillation of Greenspan's thinking on the growing range of important subjects he has engaged since becoming Federal Reserve chairman.

Why the Greenspan Effect?

Our goals in The Greenspan Effect are threefold. First, we want to make Alan Greenspan accessible to a wide audience. He works for us, and his words have the power to change our lives. How did a droll economist become a worldwide celebrity and mover of markets? On which issues has his thinking evolved, and where has it remained constant?

Second, we want to offer investors their first effective guide to understanding the Greenspan Effect. We want to provide the kinds of screens and lenses that will help people make better and more timely investment decisions. What kinds of Greenspan statements produce what kinds of effects in the financial markets?

And third, along with the rest of the world's Greenspan watchers, we try to look forward. What kinds of Greenspanisms can be taken at face value, and which not? If we can figure out how his mind grapples with the pressing issues of today, can we anticipate how he will think about -- and act upon -- the pressing issues of tomorrow? What is the Fed chairman likely to say and do before his current term expires June 20, 2000, or, with reappointment likely, in years to come?

We conclude the book with an "investor's roadmap" to the Greenspan Effect, again designed to help traders and investors make better and more timely decisions, and to help us all understand why the world has invested so much authority in one bureaucrat with no political mandate and only minor constitutional authority.

We've come to the conclusion that Alan Greenspan is the second most powerful person in the world. Surely most people interested in the financial world would put him somewhere on their Top-Ten list, even if they wish he weren't on their list. We believe this argues for a careful examination of both Greenspan and the Greenspan Effect. When the chairman speaks, markets move. This book explains how, and why.

David B. Sicilia
Jeffrey L. Cruikshank

Copyright © 2000 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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