Chit Chat

Chit Chat

Chit Chat

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
July 22 1998 6:17 PM

Chit Chat

We're taking an early break this week at Slate in honor of the appointment of Steve Ballmer as the new president of Microsoft--that's my story and I'm sticking to it--so this week's Cocktail Chatter will have to last you for an extra day. In response to requests from readers--well, two readers--we're changing the format a little this week. As always, we're offering you seven bon mots that can be casually dropped into conversation in order to startle your interlocutor with the breadth of your business knowledge. But now we're bracketing certain pieces of background information, leaving the sentences themselves in perfect condition to be spoken as written.

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As a result, no improvisation will be allowed.

1. "CNBC said today that half the companies in the S&P 500 are expected to report profits in the second half of the year. Half! How can you not be bullish with those odds?"

2. "Alan Greenspan essentially said Wednesday that the market was in for a severe correction. But he refused to say when. Would it really hurt him just to let everyone else in on the secret?"

3. "The Wall Street Journal ran a story this week saying that insiders at Carnival Cruises had recently sold large chunks of stock. Are we really meant to infer that the insiders sold the stock, set the fire, and then laughed? I think we've entered X-Files territory here." [The Carnival cruise ship Ecstasy caught on fire Monday, and on Tuesday the stock dropped, for no real reason other than bad vibes.]

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4. "Boy, it's really hot."

4a. "But with the wind-chill factor it's not really so bad."

5. "Stock options are supposed to be a painless way of compensating executives. Today, Computer Associates shareholders found out that options are painless in the same way that Skyy Vodka is hangover-less." [Computer Associates, whose stock fell 31 percent Wednesday on news that its business was slowing down, took a one-time charge against earnings of $1 billion in order to pay for stock options for just three of its executives.]

6. "As the market fell apart Wednesday, investors raced for those traditional safe havens: utility stocks, energy stocks, the regional Bells, and Internet stocks. It's a new economy, dammit."

7. "When I think of IBM, I think of a glacier. Actually, I think of a large, unwieldy computer company growing earnings at a minuscule rate, consuming huge amounts of capital every year with very little return, and talking about the impact of currency adjustments on its bottom line. That's what I think of."

Remember, the lines should be read as written.