Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
April 15 1999 7:08 PM

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

And so the Tax Man arriveth. But though you'll hear the usual grumbles, we don't live in the world of the Beatles song. The polls say that people don't feel overtaxed, and that they'd prefer to do something with the budget surplus other than just cut taxes. The numbers show that the average American family is paying a smaller percentage of its income in taxes than it has for most of the past two decades. And so much money is flowing into the stock market, and there's so much trading within that market, that it's become very difficult to argue that capital gains taxes are somehow impeding the flow of capital to the places that need it. God, Amity Shlaes must be depressed.

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Anyway, bring on the angry e-mails. Now, on to the Chatter.

1. "Burger King is updating its color scheme, abandoning tan and brick for cobalt blue, yellow, and red, and even updating its logo. No matter. Until it steals the Taco Bell Chihuahua, a real turnaround will remain a forlorn dream."

2. "Since last October, when it bottomed, shares of discount broker Ameritrade are up 3,000 percent. Now, when a stock's up 3,000 percent in six months, what could possibly prompt you to buy it? On the other hand, wouldn't you have said the same thing when the stock was up 1,500 percent after five months?"

3. "Personal-computer maker Compaq rocked Wall Street last Friday when it announced, after the closing bell, that its earnings in the latest quarter would be half of what analysts expected. On Monday, the company held two separate conference calls, in which its execs insisted that the problem was market-wide. In this, they sounded like John Belushi pleading for his life in The Blues Brothers: "My car broke down. I had to wash my hair ... IT'S NOT MY FAULT!"

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4. "Cisco Systems announced that it would be acquiring Geotel Communications for $2 billion in stock. Geotel makes software for telemarketers. That has to be a melancholy feeling, spending $2 billion for the privilege of helping companies interrupt people's dinners nationwide."

5. "Most optimistic headline of the week, from the New York Times: 'Signs of Stability Are Identified in Russia's Economy.' Or, 'Been Down So Long the Ground Looks Like Up From Here.' "

6. "In a less-than-shocking development, the Defense Department blocked General Dynamics' attempted hostile takeover of Newport News Shipbuilding. Had General Dynamics succeeded, it would have owned all of the construction of U.S. nuclear warships and four of the country's six military shipyards. In response, General Dynamics withdrew its offer and then asked the Pentagon if it would consider giving it all of its future business anyway."

7. "The big story in the market this week was the return of cyclical stocks, such as paper and metals. These have been so beaten down that they've started to look attractive, even though most analysts in the field say a real upturn in earnings for these companies is 18 to 24 months away. So investors in cyclical stocks are looking two years into the future, while investors in Internet stocks are looking approximately 15 minutes into the future. Isn't it fun when everyone can play?"