For businessmen who pride themselves on inside dope, Wall Streeters were caught flat-footed last week. The Federal Reserve Board announced what no one on the street had expected: a cut in margin requirements (money that must be put up to buy stock on credit) from 70% to 50%. For a few heady hours next day, the market marched uphill. But before day's end it had marched right down again. It closed the week at 444.12 on the Dow-Jones industrial average, up 5.44 points, mostly on gains made before the announcement.

No one was quite sure why the Federal Reserve had...

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