RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Next we're going to rate the health of the world financial markets as reported by a cliche. Here's a phrase that made the news again and again when stock markets slipped this week: When America sneezes, Asia catches cold.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
A Chinese newspaper said more specifically that when the U.S. sneezes, Shanghai catches cold.
MONTAGNE: In Europe, Britain's Telegraph newspaper reports that when America sneezes, Britain catches a cold.
INSKEEP: The diagnosis was more vague in Johannesburg, where a business publication reports that America sneezes and things get a little feverish in South Africa.
MONTAGNE: That's not vague. That's creative, Steve. The chief economist from Marketwatch.com pulled together all those reports and provides the following analysis. Quote: "When the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold."
INSKEEP: When the world's great economic minds gathered for a summit this week in Davos, Switzerland, they scheduled a debate on the question - if America sneezes, does the world still catch a cold?
MONTAGNE: We put that very question to NPR health reporter Allison Aubrey, who's skeptical.
ALLISON AUBREY: Yeah, I am skeptical. I guess the typical spray from a sneeze is only a few feet, which is obviously much shorter than the distance between America and Hong Kong. If the Hang Seng Index catches a cold, it's far more likely to come from shaking America's hand, which is a much more likely way of transmitting a cold.
MONTAGNE: And it may be time to rethink the entire cliche. Maybe when America drinks too much, then Nikkei gets a hangover.
INSKEEP: Or even when the whole world repeats the same stock phrase, we all lose money together.
(Soundbite of recording)
Mr. JIMMY DURANTE (Singer): Ethyl, if you're catching a cold, let me sneeze for you.
Ms. ETHYL MERMAN (Singer) Boy, you've got the equipment.
Mr. DURANTE: What do you mean? What do you mean?
Ms. MERMAN: (Singing) I mean that if I catch a little cold...
Mr. DURANTE: (Singing) I'll sneeze for you.
Ms. MERMAN: (Singing) ...on a frosty winter day.
Mr. DURANTE: (Singing) I'll freeze for you.
Ms. MERMAN: (Singing) If you're restless, I will sail the seas for you to prove that we're...
INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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