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Wall Street’s Roaring, But Is it Changing Lives?

September 13, 1996

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Wall Street is on a roll. But does it matter on Main Street?

``It doesn’t make any difference to me,″ retiree Alice Cross said Friday while she waited for a bus in Des Moines as the Dow Jones industrial average was rising to new heights. Asked if she owns stocks, she replied, ``Are you kidding? Why do you think I’m riding the bus?″

But many Americans do own stock _ either assembling their own portfolio, or leaving the investment decisions to mutual funds or retirement plans. In fact, one in three U.S. families has money in the stock market.

And some are thrilled with market’s stunning rebound from its July selloff.

``We’ve been doing great the past two years,″ said Maryanne Shamoun, 31, of Kennesaw, Ga.

The market’s renewed vigor is important to the mother of two and her husband, a cryogenic engineer.

``We invest 17 percent of my husband’s income in the stock market. I think that will show you the effect it would have on our lives,″ she said during a visit to Atlanta with her parents and children.

And with the new optimism on Wall Street, she said she’s ready to take even more risks on stocks.

``Ninety-five percent of our stocks are high-risk, maybe 5 percent medium risk,″ Shamoun said. Asked if she’s ready to call her broker and invest anew, she replied, ``We would probably dump the lower-risk stocks and buy more higher-risk ones.″

The rally is important to her parents, who have a much different investing outlook.

``We’re rather conservative, but being a retiree, I think it will affect me in the future,″ said Ms. Shamoun’s father, Harold Hughes of Fort Pierce, Fla. ``I depend on my investments for a great deal of my income.″

But stocks are not that big a deal for lots of Americans, as interviews around the country made clear:

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Saturday’s college football game between Iowa and Iowa State dominated conversation Friday, even as Des Moines stock brokerage signs flashed the news of the latest market surge.

``I don’t follow it,″ said Isiah McKinney, a retiree who said he neither owns stocks nor regrets missing the rally that has lifted the Dow Jones average more than 14 percent this year after a 33.45 percent rise in 1995.

``I’ve got my Army pension,″ McKinney said.

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Scott Hansen, 45, who owns a gas station near Interstate 44 in Oklahoma City, said he was vaguely aware of the market’s climb but prefers to plow his scarce extra money back into his business. Despite the market’s strong performance, Hansen sees it as a game for rich people who can afford to lose money.

``That’s all the stock market is, it’s a gamble,″ Hansen said.

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``I know enough about it to know it has its ups and downs,″ said Richard Davis, 27, an accountant with a mutual fund brokerage in Los Angeles. ``It’s nothing I would bet all my savings on.″

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``I don’t really care. I don’t really follow it. To be honest, I’m not really interested,″ said Randy Stancio, 36, a restaurant worker in Concord, N.H. He said he has money invested, but his aunt and his stockbroker take care of it and he never thinks about it.

``I don’t trust anything having to do with money,″ he said.

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