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As If

And Now, for Alan Greenspan's Next Trick

April 23, 2001|MARTIN MILLER and ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Alan Greenspan is once again the toast of Wall Street after he unexpectedly cut interest rates a half-point last week. But the move, which sent stocks soaring, didn't shock longtime observers of the Federal Reserve chairman. The calculating Greenspan is well-known for springing surprises to maximize impact on the markets.

Here are other Greenspan surprises ahead:

* Greenspan stuns New York's financial houses by showing up for a meeting of the Federal Reserve in a navy suit with brown shoes. "I'm feeling brown today," he tells reporters. The news causes a near panic in the stock market when investors interpret the absence of his trademark black shoes as a sign that the U.S. economy is not "in the black."

* Greenspan appears on "Face the Nation" sporting a toupee and a new name: P. Diddy Thor. Befuddled investors fail to make a single stock trade on the Monday following his appearance to await a clearer signal from the chairman.

* In a sign the markets were looking for, Greenspan executes a daring predawn raid inside China to recapture America's Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane. By the time Greenspan lands at Edwards Air Force base, defense industry stocks have recorded their single-biggest daily gains in history.

* While attending a global economic summit, Greenspan unexpectedly strangles the chancellor of Germany with his bare hands. Asian markets rally.

* The Fed chairman cuts federal interest rates once again--this time by 3 full percentage points. Later that day, he raises rates by 13 points. By day's end, the rates have fluctuated 20 times with a net reduction of 0.75 points. Heart attacks claim the lives of 14 stockbrokers.

* In an inscrutable move that concerns investors, Greenspan phones the major news networks and security at Burbank Airport to announce he'll be smuggling a suitcase of magic mushrooms within a few moments. Under the glare of the media, officials arrest Greenspan as the Dow tumbles, except for pharmaceuticals, which post huge gains. TV producer Aaron Sorkin visits Greenspan in jail and invites the Fed chairman to guest-star on "The West Wing."

* Greenspan mysteriously disappears from his holding cell in a Burbank jail the next morning. The Dow takes a tumble. Later he emerges from magician David Copperfield's 2,000-degree "Tornado of Fire." The Dow climbs 350 points.

* As more people catch on to his penchant for surprises, Greenspan is forced to up the ante: He announces a return to the gold standard, then changes his mind and decides to back the nation's currency with Franklin Mint collector plates.

* Growing increasingly unpredictable, the Fed chairman is spotted driving home on New York's Henry Hudson Parkway instead of FDR Drive--a move that bolsters oil and auto stocks. However, at dinner his capricious order of a 1989 Duckhorn merlot instead of a 1990 sends the Nasdaq into a tailspin.

* In yet another move to keep Wall Street off balance, the Fed chairman undergoes a sex-change operation and makes a guest appearance on Showtime's "Queer as Folk." Later, he declares Federal Reserve meetings will be conducted in the nude and be broadcast on his new cable channel "C-Greenspan."

* As an anti-surprise surprise, Greenspan does absolutely nothing all day. The stock market closes early as traders all go see "Bridget Jones's Diary."

* In a moving tribute to deceased punk rocker Joey Ramone, Greenspan (under the pseudonym Chris Gaines) releases his tender rendering of "I Wanna Be Sedated" and "Teenage Lobotomy."

* Filling a void left by Evel Knievel, Greenspan climbs into a souped-up Ford Taurus and leaps over the bodies of 100 stockbrokers.

* In one final surprise before stepping down to take the lead in "Lord of the Dance," Greenspan introduces reverse interest rates, in which borrowers earn, rather than pay, interest on their loans. The world plunges into economic meltdown--not because of the interest fiasco, but at the thought of Greenspan tap-dancing bare-chested.

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