Fires were raging through the West, Texas was simmering and parched, but New York was as cool as could be.

That was August 2000. And the reason New York was so cool may have had less to do with the Gulf stream and sun bursts than with the miracle of miracles: There were no financial disasters.

It was the first year in the past four that the financial markets got through the month of August without a major trauma. In 1997, of course, the Asian crisis erupted, bringing with it a wave of currency devaluations and stock market declines. The following year, the Russians defaulted on their debts, causing a breakdown in the junk bond market and the threat of a systemic meltdown as a result of the near collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. Last year was not quite as serious, but the markets were nervous, and corporate treasurers and ordinary people were hoarding cash in fear of computer glitches as the end of the millennium approached.

Let's hope that August 2000 has broken the spell.

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