It was Alan Greenspan's week, as expected. And instead of playing the cop who shows up at the door and says, "It's the Minneapolis police. Party's over. If everyone leaves now, then no one goes to jail," Greenspan played the cop who shows up at the door and says, "Just got off duty. Where's the keg?" And so the stock-market party rages on, with the Nasdaq now just 100 points off an all-time high, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average very close to where it was before this summer's chaos began. It should be a buoyant weekend, at least for those people who bought tech stocks a couple of months ago. Onward to the Cocktail Chatter!
1. "Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, described the Internet this week as 'part of the conspiracy to get Microsoft.' The incredible thing about the statement is that given Ellison's penchant for hyperbole, it's impossible to know whether he was being ironic. Maybe he thinks 'conspiracy' is a good word."
2. "Connecticut is going forward with plans to spend $350 million to build a stadium that will bring the New England Patriots to Hartford. A state representative said that this means that now Hartford will have everything, not just finance and insurance. That's right: finance, insurance, football! Hell, it's the new Silicon Valley."
3. "Livent finally filed for Chapter 11 protection from its creditors, as everyone's been expecting for a long time. The theatrical company also sued founder Garth Drabinsky, whose, well, creative accounting practices and loose spending helped sink the firm. The company also announced a name change, to Deadent."
4. "FedEx ground workers held a rally on Wednesday to express their support for the company, which has adopted a hard-line posture in negotiations with the pilots. Somehow I think this is not what's traditionally meant by 'Solidarity forever'."
5. "In its last quarter, Dell Computer beat estimates, saw its revenues grow by 53 percent, and earnings-per-share shot up by 65 percent. In response, the stock fell 10 points from last week's high. Apparently, Dell now needs to sell every new computer bought in America for investors to be satisfied."
6. "Brazil announced that its economy shrank by 1.5 percent in the last quarter, which means that this is, as everyone has pointed out, hardly the best time to be cutting spending and raising taxes. But the country has to do those things to convince foreign investors not to abandon it. So we're going to have an economy headed into deep recession in which stock prices nonetheless go up because at least we know that the government won't be devaluing its currency. The fact that there's nothing wrong with this picture is, of course, exactly what's wrong with this picture."
7. "The Internet stocks? Oh, they were up another 40 percent to 50 percent this week, I think. Amazon had one day in which its stock rose 20 points, because it announced it would start selling videotapes. (Ah yes, videotapes, that foundation of all good high-margin businesses.) I guess this means that all that talk about Barnes & Noble's purchase of Ingram Distribution Group being a violation of antitrust law and a blow to Amazon's fortunes was just smoke. Or it could mean that no one buying Internet stocks at these prices is thinking about anything so mundane as the companies' actual business models."