July 30, 1997

The Bull's Last Bite

by Gary Krist

Washington, July 30, 2047 (AP) -- In a long-anticipated development, the Treasury Department announced today that the very last outstanding unit of U.S. currency--a worn and tattered fifty-dollar bill owned by an unemployed steelworker in Germaine, Idaho--has been invested in the stock market.

A spokesperson for Fidelity Investments confirmed receipt of the cash, which was promptly converted into a fractional share of the mutual fund company's Global Exuberance Growth Fund. According to Treasury officials, this means that every dollar of American currency has now been used to purchase equities, long considered the only true no-risk form of personal asset.

[Responding to the news with typical insouciance, stocks turned in a middling performance today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average edging upward only 7,873,346.24 to close at a new high of 8,487,933,666.06, in very light trading.]

While Wall Street seemed to shrug off the watershed event, it did not go unnoticed in the nation's capital. In Washington, a small ceremony was held in the McDonald's/Intel Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building. Speaker Alida Sanchez (Libertarian of Indiana) joined Senate Majority Leader Hal Block (Perotian of Washington) in marking the event, unveiling a lifesize gold statue of the Wall Street Bull.

"We wanted to have it standing on a vanquished bear," the Majority Leader quipped, "but nobody could remember what a bear looks like!"

Becoming serious again, the Senator then led the assembled group of politicians, business executives, and reporters in the constitutionally-mandated three kowtows before the sacred idol, which is scheduled to replace the Freedom statue atop the Capitol dome early next week.

In remarks following the ceremony, Speaker Sanchez reminisced about the old days of the currency economy, when money was used for things other than making more money. "I remember selling cookies door-to-door for my Girl Scout troop," she said. "This was long before the Scouts gave up on chocolate mints and macaroons and started selling call options and other derivatives. We were so naive that we put all the profits into a CD paying just 3 or 4 percent!"

Senator Block joined in the nostalgic spirit: "Back when I was a kid in Spokane, around the time when Washington State first became a subsidiary of Microsoft, I used to save all of my fives and tens for toys. I desperately wanted to buy myself a Tickle-Me-Alan-Greenspan doll, remember those? But then I discovered that the return on stocks was more than enough to comfort me at night."

While the celebrations continued in the capital, analysts in New York and Chicago discussed the probable consequences of nationwide full investment. "I don't see this as any threat to the 57-year-old bull market," said Daniel Dooling of Bertelsmann/Compaq/Schwab Inc. "There are still plenty of Chinese yuan and ECUs bouncing around in financial backwaters like the Japanese and Martian economies. The pent-up demand they represent should keep the Dow afloat indefinitely."

At least one stock watcher, however, expressed concern about the effects of the demise of cash. "The absence of liquidity is bound to result in a drop in demand for stocks," explained John Huang 3rd of Goldman, Sachs/Time-Warner/Defense Department & Co. "This may cause a correction in the cycle, maybe by as much as 5 or 6 percent."

But other analysts scoffed at such pessimism. "They've been saying the same stuff for 50 years," Mr. Dooling said. "Back in 1997, the grandparents of these current doomsayers were warning us about the disparity between the growth in equity prices and the growth of the economy. They were wrong then, and they're wrong now. They just refuse to believe in the magic."

Lighting a cigar with a novelty stock certificate of America Online, a long-defunct media- communications company, he sat back and added, "Hey, they didn't believe we'd be able to thaw and revive Bill Gates either, right? And now he's President of the United States. I rest my case."

Gary Krist's most recent book is "Bad Chemistry."