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Economic future looks bright

After some turbulent times following Sept. 11, 2001, things are looking up for the stock market in the New Year.

"I think the economic picture looks very, very bright for next year," said Susan Moore, Dow Jones investment consultant.

Interest rates are currently at a 41-year low, Moore said, and inflation has also been minimal.

"The only thing that hasn't been in the picture is businesses spending," she said.

Since businesses will have to make capital expenditures to update systems next year, Moore said, spending should improve.

Moore also said the economy is in a period of uncertainty spawned by possible U.S. military action against Iraq; however, once a decision is made the market will begin to strengthen.

"The uncertainty period before the war is always a soft period for the economy," Moore said. "The minute the war begins the uncertainty is relaxed. It'll be like taking a lid off a pressure cooker."

A prolonged uncertainty period, Moore said, will continue to stump economic progress, since consumers are less likely to buy more and companies will not spend and produce as much.

Moore noted that when the United States entered Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the Dow Jones jumped 4.3 percent the day after military action began -- a growth that continued for several weeks.

"It went up for nearly six weeks straight," Moore said. "It started that first day and never looked back."

Moore said investors could likely expect to see 50 to 60 percent returns since Oct. 11, which she believed signaled the beginning of a bull market.

"I think that's a high probability," Moore said. "We have seen 100 percent (returns) in other periods."

Moore said the country has been in a slow or bear market from March 11, 2000 to Oct. 10, 2002.

Based on the quick downturn from the bear market, Moore said, the next bull market typically mimics the same momentum.

"The sharper the downturn, the sharper the rebound," she said. "I don't expect this time to be any different."