Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
July 22 1999 5:10 PM

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Rather perplexing that on a day when Lord Greenspan spooked the bond market with talk of a possible--though still only possible--rate hike, bank stocks were doing so well. (If inflation and interest rates are on the way up, that's usually a bad thing for banks.) On the other hand, maybe it's not so perplexing, just an indication that bond traders and stock traders aren't hearing the same news, believing the same things, or expecting the same future. Of course, most stock traders apparently were hearing the same news today, as tech stocks got battered again.

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What an odd week. The earnings numbers could not have been better. With the rare exception, just about every tech bellwether that's reported has come in ahead of expectations, and those were expectations that were about as high as any reasonable person could put them. But, again with the rare exception, all these bellwethers have seen their stock prices get crunched. This only goes to show you one thing, which happens to be the most important thing to know about investing: Trying to game the market in the short-term is the definition of foolishness. Dump your money into an index fund, and you won't have to worry about any of these anxieties disrupting your weekend barbecues. And so, chat on. (By the way, this will be the last weekend chatter for a couple of weeks, since Slate's running a short schedule next week. But we will return.)

1. "Sometimes, apparently, the Wall Street Journal forgets itself. Consider this description of a small Christian sect: 'Bruderhofs live communally and don't engage in violence, private-property ownership or gossip.' I can just see it now. 'Jack's a brawler and he's always talking behind people's backs. But he doesn't own any property, so at least he's got that going for him.'"

2. "Online music retailer ... no, that's not exactly right. Online music digitizer ... no. Online music something MP3.com went public to much anticipation Wednesday, and saw its shares leap from $28 to $105 in a matter of minutes. Of course, the stock is now down around $61. So you can say that MP3.com's shares nearly quadrupled on their first day and that they were cut almost in half on their first day. Ain't the Net wonderful?"

3. "Best thing a CEO has said in a long time: Time Warner's Gerald Levin to Daily Variety about possible successors to Bob Daly and Terry Semel, 'All current candidates are speculation and unless you talk to me it's all bullshit.' Of course, you wonder if the reporter then said, 'But I am talking to you.'"

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4. "At long last, UPS is becoming a public company. Now the next time UPS workers go on strike, management will have another club to bludgeon them with. 'Our shareholders demand that we hold the line on part-time labor and wage increases!' Music to my ears."

5. "Despite the fact that Mexican taxpayers are on the hook for $71 billion to bail out a host of banks that the Mexican government has been propping up for most of this decade, the government continues to insist that no public official did anything wrong and that no one should be punished. 'Not one single Mexican lost a peso in their bank accounts,' a spokesman for the Finance Ministry said. Apparently the pesos that taxpayers are sending to the government to bail out the banks don't count."

6. "French oil company Elf Aquitaine made a $51 billion counterbid this week to acquire competitor TotalFina, which had previously announced a hostile takeover attempt on Elf. 'You see, the problem isn't the merging part,' you can almost hear the Elf executives saying. 'The problem is the us-losing-our-jobs part.'"

7. "From the most recent issue of the Atlantic: 'When they envision their future, Xers don't just see a government drifting toward the political equivalent of Chapter 11; they also see a crippled social structure, a dwindling middle class, and a despoiled natural habitat.' Wow. Who knew that Xers lived in 1974?"