You know the stock market isn't feeling especially jaunty when the best news it gets all week is that economic growth might be slowing. But there are all sorts of things that people seem to be worrying about, despite the fact that earnings in the latest quarter are expected to be exceptional and that it increasingly looks as if the Fed won't raise interest rates when it meets on Tuesday. Among the worries: It's October. Halloween, you see, really freaks Wall Street out. Anyway, it'll be October all month. Which should mean that I'll have a lot to write about, at least. And so, on to this week's Cocktail Chat.
1. "3Com's shares continued to do well as the market reacted to the news that the company is planning to spin off its Palm division. Of course, if you're 3Com, is it really good news that investors think more highly of a division that accounts for just 12 percent of your revenue than they do of the entire rest of your company?"
2. "Successive headlines on TheStreet.com's International news page read: 'Central Bankers Look Set to Lengthen the Good Times' and 'Leaders Fiddle As World Burns.' In the New Economy, apparently, burning worlds are good times."
3. "Rumors swirled about a possible deal between America Online and broadband-access provider Excite@Home, a deal that would finally give AOL entry into the world of high-speed Internet access. Actually, the deal would really be between AOL and AT&T, which has 58 percent of the voting shares in Excite@Home. Excite@Home's executives say no deal will be done without their full approval, but it's a little unclear what that means. Can they filibuster like Republican senators, or what?"
4. "TiVo, maker of that device that lets you save TV programs to a hard drive and replay it whenever you want, went public Thursday and saw its shares double. I'm still not sure how different this thing is from a VCR. But I do want one, which has to bode well for the company."
5. "Avon issued an earnings warning, and saw its stock price get clubbed. Of course, what else can you expect when you consider that the Avon Lady way of selling is essentially the anti-Internet. Whatever the opposite of a .com stock is, that's Avon."
6. "Calling for an end to the patchwork of state and local tax rules, AT&T CEO Michael Armstrong complained that his company had to file 39,912 different tax returns in the United States alone. AT&T's accountants and tax attorneys are reportedly confused about exactly why that's a problem."
7. "The Wall Street Journal said that traders blamed Tuesday's stock-market volatility on 'a change in the composition of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, shock at the soaring price of gold, rumors that some investment partnerships were madly selling stocks to cover losing bets against gold, end-of-month portfolio changes, anxiety over interest rates and worries about possible market troubles as the year 2000 approaches.' What about the plague of locusts and the rain of frogs?"