Chit Chat

Chit Chat

Chit Chat

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
July 16 1998 4:40 PM

Chit Chat

Today, the bulls are running in Pamplona, which seems eerily fitting after a week in which all three of the major stock-market indices--the Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq--hit all-time highs. So tonight, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow (well, Monday) the market will surely rise ever higher, in this, the best of all possible worlds. While you're waiting, here's this week's installment of Cocktail Chatter, seven conversational apercus you can use to demonstrate that you spend far too much time watching CNBC. To the feast!

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1. "Memo to the French people: Get back to work, dammit! Why don't you build something instead of taking these eight-day vacations?"

2. "Coke's earnings rose just 4.4% over a year ago, but the company's stock still trades at 50 times earnings. It seems possible that brokers might be telling customers that if they're Coke shareholders they get free soda for the rest of their lives."

3. "Sun Microsystems unveiled a new networking platform called Jini Wednesday. This is serious geek stuff, but the New York Times put it on the front page of its Business section above the fold. Silicon Valley has truly arrived. Of course, if three weeks from now one-tenth of Times readers can identify Jini I'll be shocked, but you gotta start somewhere."

4. "Electronics retailer CircuitCity's new ad campaign begins: 'It's harder these days to find low prices.' Umm, inflation is at 1.3%. How much lower could prices be? The real question is whether Circuit City understands how ridiculous its ads are and is running them in the faith that you can't go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people, or whether Circuit City is so clueless that you couldn't go broke shorting its stock."

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5. "Former Sunbeam CEO Al Dunlap did not appear on television this week, nor were there are any major newspaper or magazine stories about him, though Sunbeam did renegotiate all its debt covenants, averting the breaking-of-legs punishment traditionally meted out to welshers. Dunlap's publicity campaign to salvage his reputation thus seems to have died a-borning. I still say if he hadn't worn those dark glasses indoors, many of his problems could have been averted."

6. "Cendant, the consumer-services conglomerate whose past year has been one long stumble from debacle to debacle, announced this week that previous reports of fraud by its employees (actually employees of CUC, which merged with HFS to form Cendant) came nowhere near capturing the full extent of the problem. CUC employees routinely falsified earnings reports in order to meet analysts' estimates, and then jiggered the books to make sure auditors wouldn't catch them. The former CUC CEO--now Cendant chairman--said, 'I couldn't have known, so I shouldn't have known.' Say what you will about Japan's problems, but if he'd been a Japanese CEO, he would have committed ritual suicide."

7. "Hey, guess what? Net stocks are still overvalued."