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Welcome to the first


theme song contest for the Japanese stock market. The rules are simple. Choose the tune which best exemplifies current sentiment for the benchmark

Nikkei 225

. Please, only one vote per person (vote below), and make sure to participate by Thursday, when much-awaited second-quarter GDP statistics (the market's equivalent of the


awards) are released.

This week's contestants: "Don't Stop Believing" by


and "Casey Jones" by the

Grateful Dead


If you're a starry-eyed dreamer -- or a Japanese politician or an investor -- you'll likely pick the '80s

Steve Perry

hit. After a decade in the doldrums, optimists -- domestic and foreign alike -- are starting to find their way back to Japan. Government money has pushed the economy forward and soon, they say, the country that led Asia into the Pacific Century will have found its feet after a lost decade.

The cynics, veterans of halcyon days when free money flowed into Japanese stocks the way free love abounded at Dead shows, have their disposable lighters hoisted for Casey. Like the storied train engineer, they worry those lost in reverie may be wise to watch their speed, as well as their stimulant intake. The dreamers have pushed the Nikkei up nearly 9% over the last three months and the jaded worry that's too much, too fast.

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Fortunately, the market will get a clear speed sign on Thursday. If GDP is strong, the dreamers will shovel more coal into the market-train's furnace. And if it's underwhelming, the cynics, remembering the optimism of the '60s giving way to the Me Generation of the '70s, will shake their heads sadly.

The handicappers seem to think the friends of Steve Perry have called it right. Pick-ups in consumer spending and housing investment have prompted many economists to revise their April through June GDP forecasts to flat to slightly higher. Previously they had estimates of a 0.3% drop. Strong numbers will help settle the nervous, who worried that first-quarter growth, which roared 8.1% on annualized basis, wasn't a mere flash in the pan.

The Grateful Dead fans, however, are quick to point out that without public spending schemes -- and with the recently bulky yen -- the third and fourth quarters may fail to follow suit.

Akio Sakanaka, president of

Sovereign Asset Management Japan

and a Deadhead, says that a strong yen and higher interest rates could easily choke off the recovery. Worse, rather than merely knocking the wind out of the economy, it could set it moving backward, taking the perky Nikkei with it.

Across the straits, Korea's stock market is facing more turmoil, as yet another


, the industrial groups that form the base of the country's economy, appears to be imploding. Last Wednesday, the bellwether


fell 3.5% on reports the upper echelons at

Hyundai Securities

may have manipulated the share price of fellow group member

Hyundai Electronics

last year just as the government arranged a merger with

LG Semicon


Any more chaebol busting -- the giant

Daewoo Group

is also being restructured -- could damage the confidence of individual investors, who are credited with helping push the index almost 190% higher this year.

Perhaps another song,


's "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)," would be most appropriate.

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