Can the weather move markets? I'm sure there's an academic study on this question somewhere, but in lieu of actually finding it, let's speculate based on a single sample: the performance today of stock markets based in New York City. In one sense, all bets were off, since volume was thin and a lot of people went home, in expectation of a disaster that has yet to arrive. (Are hardnosed New Yorkers really supposed to be taking half-days because of a little rain?) But it was interesting that just when the rain was falling hardest, and the day seemed gloomiest, stocks were selling off sharply, while by mid-afternoon, as the rain slackened and then disappeared, buyers came back into the market in force, so that the Nasdaq, for example, finished the day almost even. I don't want to say that investors are moody, but ... investors are moody. And so, on to Cocktail Chat.
1. "Despite yet another benign inflation number, the bond and stock markets sold off Wednesday, apparently because no one really believes that everybody can keep spending without prices starting to go up. Maybe we should have the equivalent of those 'No TV' days, except we can call them 'No frivolous spending' days. Of course, I don't know what I'd do with myself on those days."
2. "Most unsurprising headline of the week: 'Russian Loan From IMF Seen Unfairly Aiding Group of Banks.' At this point, isn't it clear that fairness for Russian bankers is about as real as leprechauns are to the rest of us?"
3. "Financial news channel CNBC took an equity stake in Archipelago, the third-largest electronic communications network for stock trading. Now, when we finally get interactive TV, you'll be able to click on Ron Insana as soon as he mentions a stock and instantly make a trade. It'll be paradise."
4. "At the end of the month, McDonald's is going to bring in a host of Wall Street securities analysts and let them work in a local McDonald's for a few hours. One analyst expressed skepticism to the Wall Street Journal, saying, 'I try not to eat the food.' He added that he often told McDonald's it had to improve its food quality. I'd love to hear the rest of that conversation: 'I don't drive, either. But damn, BMW has got to improve the handling in that new 528s. And what's with the cut of those new Gucci suits? I only wear T-shirts and khakis. Television? Never watch it. But why is UPN still airing Malcolm and Eddie?'"
5. "According to a recent survey, 77 percent of all 18-year-olds believe that they will become millionaires. 95 percent of those 77 percent believe that they will become millionaires by day trading Internet stocks."
6. "Procter & Gamble announced that, beginning July of next year, it will start paying advertising agencies based not on a percentage of overall ad spending, but rather on how successful the advertising is in boosting sales. Ad agencies immediately hailed this as a brilliant innovation. Of course, if they thought it was so brilliant, you wonder why they've been content to spend the last few decades collecting hefty checks for ads that didn't move sales a bit. Oh, yeah, you really have to wonder."
7. "AT&T announced that it would be offering high-speed Internet access through DSL technology, even as Time Warner announced that it would start unrolling cable-modem service more widely. Of course, you have to live on the Upper East Side of New York or in certain magic suburbs to get any of the above. It's just what I want. More and more excellent new services that will forever remain just of out my reach."