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Biz bits

By wire services
Published October 31, 2004

The likelihood of continued gridlock in Congress means investors will benefit no matter which party wins the White House this week, Barron's financial weekly says. But it predicts Republicans will pick up seats in the House and Senate, "which should translate into higher stock prices." Smart Money, meanwhile, says Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan will call the shots for stocks because monetary policy "has a far more dramatic impact on stock returns than the party of the president." And it says certain companies, such as those that make consumer staples, will do well no matter who is elected.

America has produced some of the best-known brand names in history, but Fast Company says the world's affection for U.S. brands is on the wane. "The war in Iraq, with all its geopolitical side battles, has made Nike shoes and Coca-Cola anathema in certain corners of the globe," the magazine says. "Brand USA needs a makeover."

Investors increasingly are putting their money where their values are. Smart Money says that in 2002, $1.5-billion in new money flowed into mutual funds that practice "socially responsible investing," and don't invest in so-called "sin stocks" such as tobacco, alcohol, gambling or those that create environmental pollution. A fast-growing category is "faith-based" investing based on religious values. Smart Money says it "is storming the marketplace."

Luxury is no longer the purview of the rich. Middle-class consumers are buying luxury items with high-end features or cachet, and compensating in other areas, such as buying kitchen staples at a deep discount. "New luxury" products and services appeal to the 47-million households making $50,000 or more a year, according to marketers and researchers who have a term for the trend: "masstige," or prestige for the masses.

Universities nationwide are turning to eBay to sell surplus items, some of which might otherwise be junked. Last year, Penn State University earned about $90,000 auctioning off more than 100 items, including wrestling mats, pianos and an ice cream machine. The school even sold a large globe for $11,600 to a museum in the Netherlands. Texas A&M sold several 20-year-old buses. Other schools using eBay include Oregon State, Michigan State and Washington State universities.

- Compiled from Times wires and Web sites.

[Last modified October 31, 2004, 00:55:19]

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