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A shopper pays cash for sales merchandise December 26, 2000 at the Lakeline Mall in Austin, Texas. Stores were hoping that after Christmas shopping could salvage what seems to be a disappointing holiday season. - 


BOB MOON: Any way you slice it, traders still seem to have an appetite for more risk. Juli Niemann is an analyst with Smith, Moore & Company in St. Louis, and is on the line with us now. Juli, even before Mr. Bernanke offers any reassuring words, Wall Street already seems satisfied in the face of everything else.

JULI NIEMANN: Well Wall Street basically says it's going to stay the course because you can't argue with success. The market's up 25 percent. The economy's recovering. It's not robust but it's in the right direction. We're only growing about half of what it usually does after a recession. Of course there are big concerns by Bernanke over real estate and jobs. We could slide back. But he truly believes no surprises. He'll telegraph any punches early. If he makes any changes, he's going to make clucking noises first, and he'll attach a time frame.

MOON: And yet we've got $4-a-gallon gas in some places. Why isn't more of that concern showing up on Wall Street?

NIEMANN: Wall Street's totally blowing it off. Consumers, they say, are used to it now, we're not likely to carve out much of the growth rate, assured spending is likely to continue to rise. You pour cash though into the gas tank not into the grocery cart. It can have a big impact, but the big reason Wall Street's blowing it off is simply because there's no other place to put the money. You go into bonds, we'll we're at zero percent interest rates. Into commodities -- at record new highs. Real estate -- looks attractive but it's really scary. So what we're looking at now is Wall Street needs some place to put the money and it's into stocks. And that's where it's going.

MOON: Juli Niemann is an analyst with Smith, Moore & Company, thank you.

NIEMANN: You bet.