leads with a surge in South Korea's financial markets. The New York Times leads with a story on sluggish holiday retail sales. The Washington Post lead says Congress is under pressure to offer a tax cut before the 1998 midterm elections. The Los Angeles Times leads with the malfunction of a Russian-launched satellite. The satellite fell out of orbit, and there is some chance that parts could impact on earth in the next few months.
The USAT lead says foreign investors, seeking bargains, have suddenly flooded South Korea's markets, buying blue-chips like Samsung at basement prices. The won gained 20% against the dollar in a single day. The Wall Street Journal puts the story in its World-Wide newsbox. A front-page piece in the NYT goes in a different direction, explaining Korean-Americans' mixed feelings over their homeland's financial difficulties. While they are concerned for Korea, and send money back to relatives there, Korean-Americans also feel some relief: "A poorer South Korea makes the sacrifices of immigrants in America easier to justify."
The NYT lead says holiday sales were slow for the third year in a row. Retailers thought the strong economy would mean a big buying season, but estimates see just a two or three percent increase over last December's sales (only half of the expected gain). Analysts see a paradigm shift: People no longer concentrate their gift-giving around Christmas and Hanukkah. The WSJ reefers the story on its front page.
The WP lead predicts tax-cut proposals from Congress next year. Wall Streeters forecast a $40 billion surplus for the current fiscal year; pols want to use the money to cut taxes, looking for points with voters in next fall's elections. The surplus could also lead to a renegotiation of the budget deal, with an eye towards ending the deficit by 1999.
A WSJ story tracks Canada's economic comeback. Their 1990s recession was twice as bad as the one in the U.S., but their recovery may be even more impressive. Canada's secret? Severe austerity. The government cut back on its famed social programs and laid off 45,000 (14%) of its federal employees. After peaking at 11.5% unemployment in 1993, Canada now has the fastest growing economy in the G7.
In the NYT, Janet Maslin's list of the year's best films puts Titanic, L.A. Confidential, and The Apostle at one, two, and three, respectively.
Jerry Seinfeld has opted to end his TV show after this season, prompting the NYT to devote a big block of above-the-fold space, plus a photo, to the news that a television sitcom will go off the air...several months from now. Yadda yadda yadda.