Article: Dow 7100: How the World Looked in 1997

By | February 23, 2009

Dow 7100. The last time the Dow Jones Industrial Average looked the way it did today, many other things looked very much different. The time was May 1997 — May 7, to be exact, when the Dow closed at 7085.65.

Music fans were rocking out to boy band Hanson and their hit, “MMMBop,” which was soaring on the charts. (OK, maybe “rocking out” isn’t exactly right.) The Spice Girls and Notorious B.I.G. were also selling well in record stores (remember those?).

On television, audiences were riveted to “Mad About You,” where the uber-Manhattan-yuppie Buchman couple was about to have their first TV baby. Other top shows included “Seinfeld,” “Frasier,” “Home Improvement,” and of course, “ER.” And at the movies, box-office records were about to be shattered by the release of “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”

But probably of more interest — and perhaps even more cringe-inducing — are some of the headlines from the world of business and finance around that time. Here’s a quick trip down memory lane back to 1997:

START-UP BOOM DRAINS BRAINS. With so many companies popping up to take advantage of venture-capital dollars and strive for that magic IPO, companies were beginning to complain about the scarcity of talent on the labor market. Today, unemployment is at 7.6%.

BANKS AND CAR MAKERS MAKE LOTS OF MONEY. The earnings news from the first calendar quarter of 1997 was full of bright spots. GM posted better-than-expected net on its strongest North American performance in a decade, while over in the banking sector there were upbeat reports from such names as NationsBank (now Bank of America following its acquisition of that company) and First Chicago NBD (since folded into JPMorgan Chase). In the brokerage world, Merrill Lynch and PaineWebber both reported better-than-expected earnings, net income, while Salomon’s profit dropped amid disappointing bond trading.

U.S. ECONOMY GROWING LIKE GANGBUSTERS. First-quarter output grew at a 5.6% annual rate, prompting The Wall Street Journal to write this: “Just when it seemed the U.S. economy couldn’t possibly provide any more good news, it did.”

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