Cocktail Chatter

Cocktail Chatter

Cocktail Chatter

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
Feb. 4 1999 5:19 PM

Cocktail Chatter

This is what it sounds like when a tech bubble bursts, apparently: GET OUT OF THE WAY! The Nasdaq crashed today, as all of the usual high-fliers--far too many of which sit in my portfolio--came tumbling to earth. Of course, these are the only companies in America that are growing profits at a meaningful rate, but then their recent prices would have made you think they were the only companies in America that would ever grow profits at a meaningful rate. So taking a few steps back was probably necessary, if no less painful.

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Of course, let's hope you weren't an E*Trade user trying desperately to dump your Lucent in the middle of the day. At one point this afternoon, half of all E*Trade trades were not going through. One might see the service outages as a welcome restraint on the viral spread of day trading. But that had to be cold comfort to anyone watching Intel sink like a stone today.

Still, the Nasdaq is up more than 60 percent since early October. I'd say 60 percent is maybe overshooting on the high side a little bit. Eat, drink, and be merry tonight, for tomorrow we may surely die.

1. "After the E*Trade outages Tuesday, the stocks of other discount brokerages soared on Wednesday. You gotta love this market. God only knows what would have happened if E*Trade's headquarters had been vaporized in an antimatter explosion. National Discount Brokers stock would probably have tripled."

2. "AT&T, which is buying TCI, announced that it signed a deal with Time Warner to offer local phone service over cable lines. Can't wait to see how the Baby Bells try to block this move. 'But Judge, if this happens we might not be able to charge $6 for Call Waiting, which costs us just 30 cents to provide. How are we to feed our families when that happens?'"

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3. "Things have been going swimmingly for Microsoft at its antitrust trial in Washington. This is the kind of defense effort that they'll showcase in law schools as an example of how best to win the heart and mind of a tough judge."

4. "MCI/WorldCom, which had to sell its Internet access business when the two companies merged, announced that it will now be offering Internet access around the country. It's odd. All the words in that sentence are true, and yet it makes absolutely no sense."

5. "The Victoria's Secret Web site was swamped Wednesday by millions of Web surfers who tried to catch a live Net broadcast of the company's 14-minute Wall Street fashion show. In its short piece on the troubles, the only person the New York Times quoted was a woman who had tried to log on to the site but couldn't get through. A woman anxious to see supermodels in lingerie. I'm sure she really was a representative sample of all those millions of surfers. Really."

6. "I just felt that there was something missing in the Super Bowl ads this year. Something like humor."

6a. "Louie the Lizard is, of course, exempted from the previous critique."

7. "The value of the Slovak koruna rose Wednesday to 37.530 korunas per dollar, up from 37.860 korunas per dollar on Tuesday. ... No, what's weird is not that I'm telling you this. What's really weird is that someone, somewhere, cares about this."