Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
Sept. 2 1999 7:35 PM

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Well, it's as if last week never happened, as all the gains that the stock market racked up in the wake of the Fed's interest-rate hike have evaporated, and in the space of five or six days we went from being convinced that the Fed was done raising rates for the year to being almost certain that it would be back in action Oct. 5. The truth is, who really knows? But the one thing that has become clearer and clearer is that any notion that bond-market investors are more rigorous and less hysterical than stock-market investors is just wrongheaded. Bond prices have been oscillating as wildly in the past few weeks as Internet prices, and for reasons that are often even less obvious than those moving the stock market. Everyone, in other words, is looking forward to Monday. So take a nice long weekend, drink heavily (I mean think heavily), and wonder, as we all will, where the summer went. On to the Chatter.

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1. "ABC announced that Sam Donaldson would no longer be covering the White House on a day-to-day basis but would be retaining his title as chief White House correspondent 'out of respect to him and his position.' Has this guy never read King Lear?"

2. "Juniper Networks, which makes routers for the infrastructure of the Internet, went public in late June and, at its peak, was up 700 percent in two months. The company's now worth $11 billion, despite having only $32 million in sales. Yesterday, it announced that it was already going back to the market for a follow-on offering, selling another 1.5 million shares. Hey, it's like Lyndon Johnson said right after the 1964 election, 'Get it all now, boys, because it's not going to get any better than this.' "

3. "Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman told a German business daily that the U.S. stock market was endangering the U.S. economy, because 'a strong market crash' was increasingly likely. Now, last year, Friedman blamed the global economic meltdown not on panicky investors but on busybody governments. I guess Alan Greenspan had better get ready to feel Friedman's wrath."

4. "Malaysia finally lifted the capital controls it imposed in the wake of the drastic devaluation of its currency and the collapse of its economy last summer. Surprisingly, massive capital flight from the country is not expected. Massive consternation on the part of the International Monetary Fund and neoclassical economists is."

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5. "The New York Transit Authority is running an ad campaign pushing courtesy on its subways. One ad, for instance, reads, 'If you don't put anything on the seat next to you, someone else will be able to sit down.' I can just hear my fellow subway riders say, 'And your point is?' "

6. "Long-struggling Amtrak, which thought it had finally found a true winner in the high-speed Acela train, announced this week that the Acela won't be launched until next spring at the earliest because the vibration of the trains is causing 'excessive wheel wear.' Until the Acela is launched, existing trains will be made noisier, so that it seems like they're going faster."

7. "Some analysts are concerned that Friday's employment report will bring bad news, because school years are starting earlier in much of the country, bringing teachers back onto payrolls, and the Labor Department has apparently not made the necessary seasonal adjustment yet. So now bond traders have as much reason to dread the end of summer as little children do."