Unemployment is up

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Great news! Unemployment is up. Wages are stagnant. Hiring by U.S. companies is down, for the first time in more than four years. But there might be some help wanted on Wall Street soon, because Friday's unemployment report is the stuff rallies are made of. Just a half-hour into the trading day, the Dow was up 175 and the Nasdaq almost 200 (with inflation-fearing bonds whooping it up right alongside them) as investors saw visions of the long season of economic overdrive, interest-rate hikes, and neurotic markets drawing to a close. "This is the latest sign that the economy is slowing down, and because these are labor numbers, they're going to have particular weight with the Fed," says TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl. "This is the kind of news that could take some of the uncertainty out of the markets and get stocks going up again."

In fact, there was rejoicing all across the world. First the Asian markets, then the European bourses surged -- along with the yen and the euro -- on the prospect of the Big Bad American Economy being brought just a little bit low. See, the dollar, bolstered by investors and buttressed by rising interest rates, has been beating up the other currencies in the playground all spring. To keep their own currency up, the Europeans especially have felt pressure to hike their own rates along with Greenspan, thus endangering the nice little expansion they've got going over in euroland. Now everybody from Wall Street to Wittenberg figures they can relax a little, because Uncle Alan has maybe one more hike in him -- a quarter-point at the end of June -- before he settles in to watch Campaign 2000 on TV. His job, after all, is safe for another three years.