It was a week whose mood, at least after Wednesday morning, was best described by that most eloquent of capitalists, Deng Xiaoping: "To get rich is glorious!" In the wake of a weaker-than-expected Consumer Price Index number, which seemed to be proof positive that inflation remains under control, buyers flooded back into the stock market, picking up bushels of the stocks that they had wanted to buy for weeks but had convinced themselves they couldn't because, well, 300 times earnings is pretty pricey.
The CPI number doesn't mean that the Federal Reserve won't raise interest rates when it meets in a couple of weeks, but it does make a second rate hike even less likely than it already was. One of the real pleasures of yesterday's number, in fact, was watching the talking heads scramble, since before Wednesday everyone was hurrying to get out in front of the Fed and call for at least two interest-rate hikes, and after Wednesday everyone was hurrying to explain why they hadn't been painfully wrong. The Goldilocks economy continues, and you know Greenspan wants to exit with his record intact. Hey, it's all good. And so, on to the Chatter.
1. "Hong Kong Telecom announced that it would be changing its name to Cable and Wireless HKT to drive home the fact that its ambitions reach far beyond Hong Kong. In response, MCI/WorldCom said it was contemplating changing its name to MCI/UniverseCom, @Home mentioned the possibility of @Everywhere, and Level 3 is toying with Level 1 Billion. Microsoft is keeping its name."
2. "After three decades, the Japanese government finally approved the Pill for consumer use. Of course, the Japanese birth rate is already one of the lowest in the world, so this might qualify as the proverbial shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped. But at least Tom DeLay will have a new bit of evidence to add to his litany of the world's descent into corruption."
3. "Consumer-products giant Gillette warned that its earnings for this quarter would come in below expectations, citing a weak rebound in Brazil, slowing demand for stationery products, and continued woes in Asia. And then, of course, there's the impact of the long-dreaded return of the handlebar-mustache craze."
4. "According to the Wall Street Journal, when Trimark Pictures submitted an ad for a film called Mr. Murder featuring a pointed gun, it was rejected by the Motion Picture Association of America. When a pointed knife was substituted, the ad was accepted. Apparently no one at the MPAA rode with Eli Wallach against James Coburn in The Magnificent Seven, because if they had, they'd know that knives are not to be trifled with."
5. "Time Warner is moving its chief financial officer, Richard Bressler, to a new position as CEO of its Digital Media division. What's amazing about this is that it's really a promotion, and not a subtle way of easing Bressler out. Five years from now, Time Warner will probably be the subsidiary and Digital Media the parent."
6. "The Phantom Menace earned more than $300 million in 30 days, trouncing Titanic, which took a feeble 44 days to reach that milestone. Apparently, the nefarious scheme we at Slate had concocted to crush the film with accusations of economic illiteracy and racism has failed. Curses! Foiled yet again."
7. "Fifty million Coca-Cola products have now been removed from the shelves of stores in France after more than 80 French consumers complained of feeling ill after drinking Coke. The company's products have also been banned in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium (where the bad soda water was apparently brewed). Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has gone so far as to ban all Coke drinks produced in Belgium. Why Saudi Arabians would be drinking Cokes made in Belgium remains something of a mystery, but then one virtue of running an authoritarian regime is that you can act oddly and never have to explain yourself."