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Downright worry versus cautious optimism


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Following the turbulence of 2000 in financial markets - with the euro in free fall, volatility in tech stocks, a climbing oil price and continuing problems in Japan - economists are divided into two camps over the outlook for 2001: the cautious and the downright worried.

Merrill Lynch's army of analysts take the cautious - even a cautiously optimistic - line, arguing that though global growth will continue to slow, conditions are in place that will result in positive returns in equity markets and a soft landing in the global economy.

Michael Hartnett, senior international economist at Merrill Lynch, says that there are three questions facing the global economy in the coming year: will there be a soft landing, will the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank (ECB) ease monetary conditions, and will the euro bottom out and find itself a range? "The answers to these questions are yes, yes and yes," he says.

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