Sudden Illness

William W. McGuire isn't pleased. Just two weeks ago, the chief executive officer of United HealthCare Corp. was basking in praise from investors impressed with the Minnetonka (Minn.) health-maintenance organization's growing membership rolls, strong earnings, and $1.8 billion in cash. Then, out of the blue came a couple of gloomy forecasts from his HMO rivals. In one day, United's stock price plunged 9%, to 391/4. "There's always an event that causes an overreaction in the market," McGuire laments. "Someone always yells, `The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"'

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