Happy New Euro!

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NEW YORK: Move over, dollar -- there's a new currency in town. Eleven European nations, including France and Germany, Thursday locked their exchange rates to make way for euro. Investors are bracing for a rough day Monday, January 4, when the euro begins trading on the always volatile often savage world currency stage. "The euro is the first currency that has a strength comparable to the dollar, in terms of an investment," says TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl. "There's going to be a rush among money managers to diversify -- selling dollars and buying euros -- so that their portfolios will be balanced."

The farther the dollar's value drops, of course, the greater sense of urgency to unload U.S. notes, but Baumohl says good old economic fundamentals should keep the asset shuffling from escalating into a stampede. "Europe is headed into a slowdown this spring. That means more interest rate cuts are likely on the way," he says. "And rate cuts weaken currencies." The euro, in other words, isn't quite as good a bet as the buck right now, and that should keep Monday's trading day from turning into a nightmare for investors. But with the economies of Europe behind it, the euro is a coin to be reckoned with. Starting Monday, the financial world will never be the same.