"A Swedish woman would have hit the boss in the face and walked away."----Hakan Mogren, CEO of Sweden's Astra, whose U.S. unit has been rocked by a sexual harassment scandal, on the different workplace environment in SwedenEDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH LISA SANDERSReturn to top
A FED APPOINTEE IS GETTING FED UP
AN ANTI-GREENSPAN MOVE in the Senate by populist Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) may backfire--costing the Clinton Administration a Fed nominee, Laurence Meyer, believed to be more sympathetic to White House views.
Harkin has placed a hold on Alan Greenspan's renomination as Federal Reserve chairman. He's requesting three days of Senate floor time to criticize Greenspan for keeping interest rates too high, a demand the GOP leadership refuses. Greenspan continues to preside over the Fed, while the two other Clinton nominees for the central bank, St. Louis economist Meyer and White House budget czar Alice Rivlin, have been left waiting, not too patiently.
Some Clintonites fear that if the stalemate stretches into summer, Meyer will back out. Ditto for their nominee to replace Rivlin, Fannie Mae Vice-Chairman Franklin Raines. Meyer, on leave from his economic forecasting firm since he and Rivlin were nominated in February, has indicated he'll rejoin his practice--which includes prognosticating Fed policy--if the impasse isn't broken by July. Making Fed forecasts could hurt him in the Senate. Only Rivlin will comment: "I'm anxious to get to the Fed."EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH LISA SANDERS By Dean FoustReturn to top
CAN'T DECIDE ON A MUTUAL? REST EASY
THE FUND OF FUNDS----A mutual fund that invests in other mutual funds--hasn't caught on with investment giants. Until now. Discount broker Charles Schwab is expected to file a prospectus soon for a series of such vehicles, picking various funds from among the 500 offerings in its OneSource program.
OneSource lets investors buy funds of such managers as Janus and Invesco. Schwab's new umbrella funds (international, growth, etc.) would let people diversify their investments without having to choose a portfolio of funds themselves. Experts think the Schwab plan may change the mutual-fund landscape. If it attracts the vast sums they anticipate, "all the big companies will have a fund of funds within 12 to 18 months," says Robert Markman of Markman Capital Management.
Some large fund companies such as Vanguard and T. Rowe Price have launched such umbrellas, but theirs consist only of their own funds.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH LISA SANDERS By Jeffrey LadermanReturn to top
DWINDLING UNIVERSAL APPEAL FOR THE AT&T CARD?
IS THE AT&T UNIVERSAL card, the original "no fee for life" credit card, losing its edge? Research firm Brittain Associates finds that the number of households likely to use the card fell from 6.8 million to 6.3 million from March, 1995, to March, 1996.
By surveying households, President Bruce Brittain says he ferrets out those who know they own the card and are more prone to use it. That, he argues, is a better indicator than the more commonly cited number measuring total accounts on file, even inactive ones.
This is the first drop Brittain has found for AT&T's card, now America's sixth-largest, since its 1990 debut. Why the decline? Rivals offering extras or lower interest rates. Example: American Express Optima True Grace Card gives each item charged a grace period of at least a month.
AT&T disputes Brittain's conclusion. Universal Card Services chief David Hunt says total accounts actually grew 15% from March, 1995, to March, 1996. But he admits the card hasn't kept pace with overall industry account expansion, estimated at 19% in 1995. What's more, Universal Card's balances outstanding rose only 15% last year, well behind the industry's 25%.
To better compete, AT&T Universal now offers enticements such as long-distance calling discounts. But that's not enough, say such critics as George Yacik of consumer research firm SMR Research: "It's very complicated. After a while you kind of lose interest."EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT, WITH LISA SANDERS By Jennifer ReingoldReturn to top