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After the dust storms had swept over the Midwest in 1935 and 1936, thousand of families left their useless farms and began traveling by automobile to California, where, they had heard, there was enough work for everybody. When they reached their destination, they discovered that workers were needed only a few weeks a year. You can easily imagine how disappointed they were. On frequent occasions they found themselves without money or food. Life was extremely inconvenient for them. Often they slept in tents or shacks, got their water from ditches, and, when night came, were without lights (for of course they had no electricity). The federal government, impressed by their misery, endeavored to help these unfortunate farmers by setting up large camps for them to live-in while they looked for work. A fair rule of the thumb is that when economists agree that a currency will rise, it will fall. Look at the dollar. Almost everybody expected it to climb this year as stronger growth in America pushed up interest rates, while rates in sluggish Europe and Japan fell. Interest rates have shifted in the dollar's favour, yet since January the greenback has dropped against most currencies; last week it nearly breached a post - 1945 low of Y100. Heavy buying of dollars by central banks and a half point cut in Germany's discount rate on May 11th has helped to lift it again, but the underlying cause of its weakness remains: deep distrust of American's economic policy. The dollar and bond prices have fallen despite three recent hikes by the Fed in short-term interest rates. Much of the blame for the fall lies with the Clinton administration's meddling. Until recently, officials appeared to be trying to talk the dollar down against the yen, to make American goods more competitive and so shrink America's trade deficit with Japan. This was an open invitation to the markets to sell dollars. On May 4th, as the dollar dived, Lloyd Bentsen, America's Treasury secretary, abruptly spun around and announced that he saw "no advantage in an undervalued currency." Other officials went so far as to deny that the administration ever wanted the dollar to fall. Few investors are convinced.
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