Is it a stock-market correction yet? Don't you think everyone would feel better if there were an agency that could actually step forward and say, "We are now officially in a correction," the way the government does with recessions? Or would everyone feel worse? Regardless, the market did take it on the chin this week, battered by the combination of earnings disappointments from a couple of bellwethers and, above all, by the soaring yield on the 30-year bond. A Federal Reserve rate hike on Nov. 16 is now a foregone conclusion, and there may already be a rate hike after that one priced into the market.
Of course, that means that if you're in the market, now is most definitely not the time to sell. Instead, it's a moment to remember Kipling. No, not The Jungle Book. And it's a time to wonder: Why is it a correction when the market drops by 10 percent, but not when it rises by 10 percent? The lower price isn't any more of an equilibrium state, and it's not necessarily any more accurate. So let's call it a dislocation instead, and imagine that someday soon all our shoulders will be back in their sockets. Right where they belong. On to this week's Cocktail Chat.
1. "In a decision that will help AT&T expand its national cable reach, the FCC affirmed an old rule limiting any one company from serving more than 30 percent of all cable households, but changed its definition of 'cable households' so that any one company can now serve 36 percent of the market. Is this what they call quantum math?"
2. "Con Ed agreed to buy Northeast Utilities for $3.3 billion. Oddly, the Bronx cheers that have greeted recent megamergers in the telecommunications industry were absent when this deal was announced. I think that's because no one under 65 owns stock in power companies anymore."
3. "This is from a full-page Intel ad in the Wall Street Journal (punctuation duplicated exactly): 'from a dedicated oc48 fiber optic ring that can to scale to oc192, providing network connectivity to multiple carriers. to as many as 10,000 stacked servers.' It's like e.e. cummings meets the biggest geek in the world. And hey, what about oc193, anyway?"
4. "Least surprising headline of the week: 'Steelmakers Are Expected To Post Weak Results.' "
5. "Shares in Abercrombie & Fitch were smoked for a 20 percent loss Wednesday after the company announced that its same-store sales for the most recent quarter would come in slightly below Wall Street expectations. This came as something of a shock to Merrill Lynch analyst Mark Friedman, who Monday morning boosted his rating on the stock after company officials assured him that the company was right on track. I guess the company's sales on Monday afternoon and Tuesday were just so awful that they wrecked the whole quarter."
6. "Motorola agreed to put America Online's Instant Messenger software in its next generation of cell phones and pagers. This is the greatest news I've heard in months. Now you can be hunted down and annoyed when you're offline, too. Thought not giving out your cell phone number would keep you safe? Well, in this brave new world, if you have a screen name, you're fair game."
7. "Philip Morris has finally admitted that smoking does cause lung cancer and other diseases. Next, coffee makers will admit that caffeine makes some people jittery, and Nabisco will admit that peanut butter and Ritz crackers are just a match made in heaven."