Cocktail Chatter

Cocktail Chatter

Cocktail Chatter

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
Sept. 17 1998 4:31 PM

Cocktail Chatter

Well, we almost made it. Four straight days of steady gains in the U.S. stock market, and then the auslanders had to go and wreck everything by selling off Wednesday night after Fed chair Alan Greenspan failed to give investors the green light to buy as recklessly as they could. (A sprig of parsley to the first person able to parse that sentence successfully.) Of course, the comment of a trader on the NYSE floor today summed it up pretty well: "There's not a lot of good news on the horizon." How surprising that stocks kept going up. Well, until they didn't.

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Regardless, the fall party season is now in full fling (or so I imagine), and herewith the weekly Cocktail Chatter. (To clear up some confusion, these bon mots are not intended as opening lines, unless the person to whom you're speaking is a bond trader with a sense of humor.)

1. "'Our entire land is strewn with the ruins of business wrecked by men who have mismanaged the property which unwise credit gave into their hands.' Malaysia in 1998? No. The United States in 1889. They had a great panic that year too, but I don't think we can blame that crash on George Soros."

2. "A new Novell ad for NetWare 5 says, 'It is not vaporware, and it's not a PR stunt.' Hey! Our vaporware is better than their real product any day of the week."

3. "Warren Buffett said yesterday that the market's slide hadn't been 'dramatic,' and that he had $9 billion in cash waiting to be put to work. In other words, there will be another market slide, and it will be dramatic? That's a comforting thought."

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4. "Fashion retailer Claire's has secretly bought 12 percent of competitor Gadzooks because it wants to merge, but Gadzooks has rebuffed Claire's advances. I can understand why. The Gadzooks name alone has to be worth what? Six dollars and eighty five cents?"

5. "Russia is now renegotiating its debt with overseas investors who are 'outraged' at the government's failure to honor its obligations. Don't you think Alexander Shokhin, who's negotiating for Russia, must be tempted to hold the talks in a missile silo? You know, the way mobsters slam guns on the table before asking someone, very nicely, to pay up? Though of course Shokhin is the welsher here, so we probably shouldn't be giving him advice."

6. "Gillette warned that its revenue for the latest quarter would fall short of expectations because of slumping foreign sales. It's a simple truth: most U.S. companies don't rely on the global economy to prosper. But almost every one of the large-cap multinationals who were the market's darlings does."

7. "Now we find out that the Internet portals don't like the label and want a new name to describe themselves. How does 'black hole for investors' sound?"