Chit Chat

Chit Chat

Chit Chat

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
June 12 1998 3:20 PM

Chit Chat

Is it the weekend already? It's raining hard out here in New York City, which may mean that everyone will stay home instead of heading out to dinner parties, cocktail parties, bars, and restaurants. Elsewhere, though, I'm sure the party scene will still be going strong, and so here's our regular weekly plate of business bon mots sure to earn you a reputation as someone who spends entirely too much time reading the Journal (or at least Slate). At the request of readers who felt 10 items was just too many to keep in their heads all at once, I've cut the list to seven, which should still be enough to get you through an evening. Start your engines!

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1. "Amazon.com's stock rose almost 15 percent on Thursday alone when it started selling music as well as books over the Internet. The odd thing about it is that this was not news. Everyone knew this was coming for months. What did investors think: 'Wow! I never thought they'd actually have the guts to branch out into CDs'?"

2. "General Motors' intransigence with the United Auto Workers is finally starting to hit the company's stock price. Still, the truth is that investors are so unconcerned with what you might call real money that the fact that GM is going to start losing $300 million a week--money that once it's gone, they're never going to get back--just doesn't really seem to matter that much."

3. "The most telling line of the week was Federal Trade Commission chairman William Baer denying to a Wall Street Journal reporter that the commission's antitrust suit against Intel had anything to do with all the publicity that the Department of Justice has been getting for suing Microsoft and then excusing himself from the conversation because: 'I've got a TV interview.' "

4. "So now Wells Fargo, after botching its last huge banking merger, is going to merge with Norwest in a deal valued north of $30 billion. You can almost hear the Wells Fargo execs thinking about whether to sign off on the deal: 'Hell, there's no way we could mess up as badly as we did last time. Let's give it a go!' "

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5. "Every time tobacco stocks look like they're starting to poke their heads above their covers, something comes along to beat them back into hiding. By finding in favor of a long-time smoker who was suing Brown and Williamson for negligence, that Florida jury may very well have guaranteed that the tobacco industry will get no concessions at all in the tobacco bill. Of course, the plaintiff did refer to cigarettes as 'cancer sticks' and 'coffin nails.' How, exactly, you can argue that he didn't understand that smoking was bad for his health is a little perplexing." (It would probably be best not to say this to a vehement anti-smoking advocate.)

6. "In that new movie A Perfect Murder Michael Douglas plays a currency trader whose wealth vanishes when 'interest rates move against him.' I guess Greenspan can't keep everyone happy."

7. "The Gap just keeps getting better and better as a company. Its new khaki ads are very cool, and now we find out that Warren Buffett has taken a stake in it. And the company's numbers are unbeatable. Hey, in a booming economy everyone likes to buy clothes."

And as a bonus, try this: "It looks like the market's going to be entering a new, lower trading range." But smile when you say it.