Bears And Belt Tightening

BEARS AND BELT-TIGHTENING

What'll you do if the stock market tanks? Here's a clue: Each year, consulting firm Cicco & Associates Inc. surveys about 400 small-biz owners on spending plans for the coming year. About three-fourths of the way through the 1997 survey, on Oct. 27, the Dow plunged 550 points. In the 113 responses postmarked Oct. 27-Nov. 15, planned spending increases fell 50%, even though the market recovered 340 points the next day. Even computer purchases took a hit. Travel faced the deepest cuts. Only bank activity such as debt payment remained unchanged. Optimism returned in responses mailed after the Nov. 15 cutoff date as the market held steady.

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