Ahead: Growth and Danger

For months, portents have flashed across the financial heavens, feeding expectations of renewed vigor for the sluggish world economy. The price of oil has been in free fall, lifting a multibillion-dollar burden from industrialized and Third World countries. International interest rates have been dropping steadily, clearing away yet another obstacle to growth. In the U.S., the declining dollar has been named a harbinger of strengthened international competitiveness, meaning that the country's bedraggled manufacturing and farming sectors would once again revive and help refuel the world's foremost engine of economic expansion.

Yet for all those optimistic signs, many of the major economies...

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