What a month this has been!
Let’s have a quick recap:
The stock market plunges.
In one month, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost a couple thousand points and stocks have lost about $7 trillion in value (yes, that’s trillion with a “t”).
The U.S. dollar is up.
The strength of the U.S. dollar has climbed sharply as foreign markets decline and foreign investors buy U.S. currency. The result? The U.S. dollar is going a lot further, including in Canada. In late September, the dollar was about on par with the loonie, but by late October the Canadian dollar had fallen to nearly 77 cents. That means fewer Canadian shoppers in the U.S., which is bad for retailers, but it’s also good for American travelers.
Banks are consolidating.
This past month and a half has created turmoil throughout the banking industry. Wachovia, after a failed courtship with Citigroup, is set to be acquired by Wells Fargo. Bank of America is buying Merrill Lynch. And JPMorgan Chase took on the banking operations of Washington Mutual after it was seized by federal regulators.
Federal stop-gap measures abound.
Congress passed the $700 billion bailout, and now they’re trying to figure out how to implement it. The Federal Reserve cut interest rates by half a percent earlier in the month, and dropped rates again on Oct. 29 to 1 percent, which is darn near giving money away.
Gas prices fall.
Oil prices fell from a high of $147 per barrel in July to a 17-month low of about $61. This has meant that gas at the pump has fallen considerably, which is a lone bright spot in the economic forecast.
So what does this all mean for the small-business owner, besides a case of whiplash? We’re hearing a mixed bag from local businesses (see Your Turn on page 14). While some businesses are strong as ever, everyone is bracing themselves and looking at ways to be smarter in the months ahead.
What this has meant for the BBJ is we, like all of you, are also working harder and smarter. They say that when times get tough, don’t skimp on your marketing efforts (and I’m not just saying this because we happen to sell advertising. Experts are saying it, too: Check out the Business Toolkit on page 38 for tips on how to keep strong in a down economy). As part of our own marketing efforts, we are working on expanding our circulation and our visibility.
You might have seen our new bright blue circulation boxes downtown and in Barkley Village. Each month, these boxes will be stocked with a limited amount of free papers — and when they’re gone, they’re gone. But the boxes also have forms to sign up for a free paper (for Bellingham businesses) or a paid subscription (for personal subscriptions or out-of-town businesses).
We are also working to stay true to our core mission: to bring you the best business news around. Especially in difficult times, you need reliable information so you can make sound decisions, and we are here to help you do business better.
To that end, we want to hear what is on your mind. How is business? How can we help bring you tools you can use? What question about the local business climate has been on your mind? E-mail me and we will see what we can do to find you the answers.