Maybe it’s impossible to fully prepare oneself for the prospect of leaving NeverLand.  We get comfortable with things as they are and are easily shaken when facing the possibility they may soon change.  We have known for months that interest rates couldn’t stay at forty-year lows and that tax breaks and incentives wouldn’t remain the rule.  But with all the waling and gnashing of teeth on Wall Street during the past few weeks, we see proof of Benjamin Graham’s observation that the market is a “voting machine” in the short run, driven by the sum of individuals voting their emotions of fear or greed.  Only during longer spans of time does it settle into its more dignified analytical reputation as a “weighing machine” of the facts.   

This week we saw improvement on the government policy front.  Yesterday, President Bush announced an end to the steel tariffs that have caused such noise from Europe andChina, as he announced that they had served their purpose.  Generally any government policy that restricts free trade is bad, but when concerted foreign competitive practices cause whole-industry disruption in a target country and the jobs it provides, action may be warranted.  But the questions are always complicated and heavily influenced by bias.

The S&P gave up a half a percentage point this week while the NASDAQ declined by .64%.  The economic news was mixed and gave little boost to the market in either direction.  Retail stocks led the decline as some investors and analysts fretted that the increase in mortgage rates would slow refinancing, thereby reducing a major source of consumer funds.  Another factor weighing on the market was the release of yet another bin Laden tape on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary.