Hey, it was a beautiful mood-swing week on the Street, as Fear and Greed wrestled. On Tuesday, as Homer wrote, "[I]mmortal Panic, companion of cold Terror, gripped the Achaians as all their best were stricken with grief that passes endurance." ("Achaians" being the ancient Greek word for "investors," of course.) On Thursday, though, the Nasdaq's gain almost perfectly matched Tuesday's loss, and suddenly the hearts of all leapt with joy. Of course, the astonishing thing is that there was absolutely no real news that should have pushed the market one way or the other. Call it the Irrational Hand.
In any case, onward to this week's Cocktail Chatter, which does not, as last week's did, include a woeful joke about foreign currencies, a joke made all the worse by the fact that I was wrong about what had happened to the koruna's value. Thanks to all the readers who wrote in to correct me. You'll be pleased to know I will refrain from further such jokes in the future, and will now confine myself to sight gags.
1. "According to the New York Times, 'The World Bank criticized its own work in Indonesia, saying it ignored corruption, repression, and a collapsing financial system.' So bank employees didn't recognize that Indonesia was falling apart before its eyes. So they didn't recognize that its political system was rotten through-and-through, and that its economy was a house of cards built on cronyism. So what? At least they were in there giving it the old college try!"
2. "Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell now contends that Teletubbie Tinky Winky is gay and that his presence on the show menaces the moral well-being of America's kids. You know what's next, don't you? Falwell's going to discover that Tinky Winky is Jewish as well, and then he'll finally be able to announce that he's unmasked the antichrist."
3. "Favorite statistic of the week: 6,600 banks and other financial institutions issue credit cards, but seven companies issue two-thirds of all cards. Apparently all over America there are small, eccentric groups of people carrying Joe's Bank Visa cards or Hecuba Savings and Trust MasterCards. And let's not even get into that weird Diners Club cult."
4. "Microsoft witness Cameron Myhrvold said in court Wednesday that the company tried to keep Internet service providers from presenting Netscape's browser next to Internet Explorer because, 'We thought we would lose in a side-by-side choice.' Justice Department attorney David Boies pumped both fists into the air when he heard the response and shouted, 'I am the greatest of all time!'"
5. "A federal judge ordered American Airlines pilots back to work after a five day sick-in prompted by the airline's acquisition of Reno Air. What happens now if you're an American pilot and you really are sick?"
6. "Days after falling to pieces in a vicious sell-off Tuesday, the Nasdaq mounted a strong rally on Thursday, prompted by Fed chair Alan Greenspan's testimony before the House Banking Committee. No, I mean, prompted by Microsoft's success in its antitrust trial. No, I mean, prompted by. ... Some things are better left unexplained."
7. "Healtheon, the new Internet health-care company founded by Netscape co-founder Jim Clark, went public on Thursday at a price of $8 a share, and quickly rocketed above $30 a share. Glad to see that once again the IPO's underwriters put countless hours into figuring out exactly what investors would pay for the company."