Y2K rumour-control centres in the works

The White House and private businesses are developing year 2000 command centres to respond to problems and prevent rumours and myths from prompting panic buying or rash financial decisions.

"Our biggest concern has always been the fear that people will make decisions about economics, buying or selling of securities, based on a rumor," said J. Patrick Campbell, the chief operating officer at Nasdaq Stock Market.

Nasdaq plans an education campaign to inform investors about its year 2000 work. Campbell told two House committees that Nasdaq will also establish a command centre that will have communications "hot links" with vendors, news media and the White House Y2K Information Coordination Centre (ICC).

Nasdaq's operation mirrors a much broader effort by federal officials to gather information from industry and agencies about Y2K and channel it to the ICC starting December 31.

At the hearing, White House Y2K Czar John Koskinen defended his relatively mild year-2000 forecast, especially his use of self-reported data from industry trade groups.

The White House and congressional committees have generally agreed that year 2000 problems -- at least domestically -- will be temporary, at worst. The White House will reaffirm that forecast in a Y2K report it will release this week, but that report will also cite problem areas that are of greatest worry -- most of them overseas, in countries such as Russia.

But the domestic Y2K forecast is based largely on trade association surveys and that has aroused suspicion, especially in the Senate's Y2K committee, that the data may be too rosy.

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