Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
Dec. 16 1999 7:09 PM

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

This was one of those weeks in the market that a couple of decades ago, perhaps even a decade ago, would have seemed inconceivable. (I know, every week these days probably would have seemed inconceivable.) Despite some really impressive news on the inflation front--the Consumer Price Index rose a weaker-than-expected 0.1 percent and the Labor Department issued a study saying that states with the lowest unemployment rates showed no added inflationary pressure--interest rates just kept rising, touching 6.4 percent at one point on Thursday. Normally, those kinds of yields in the bond market would pull money out of stocks. But at least when it came to the powerhouses of this stock market, the big-cap tech names, no one even blinked. Y2K? Tax-selling after the New Year? High p/e ratios? It does not seem to matter. So down the egg nog and give shares in some Internet highfliers as gifts. It'll be just like when my grandmother used to give us lottery tickets for our birthdays.

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1. "The Justice Department is investigating MTV for possible antitrust violations. I can hear the lawyers talking now: 'Well, we could go after Exxon. But if we go after MTV, even if nothing comes of it, we'll probably get to meet Serena Altschul and Jennifer Lopez.' "

2. "Michael O'Reilly, the chief financial officer of Linux software maker Corel, announced he was resigning Wednesday. O'Reilly is the third exec to leave the company in two weeks. Corel says they all left for 'personal reasons.' As in, they were personally appalled at the direction the company was taking, and could no longer work there in good conscience?"

3. "Sony Pictures announced that Amy Pascal, president of Columbia Pictures, was being promoted to chairwoman, even though Columbia has been in a slump and had only one hit this year. On the other hand, Pascal was visionary enough to green-light Adam Sandler's Big Daddy. So give her a corner office, too!"

4. "Three antismoking groups issued a report today telling tobacco farmers that their economic problems stemmed not from antismoking efforts in the United States but from cigarette companies' decisions to outsource production and supply abroad. Surprisingly, the report did not add: 'Of course, we do want you to go out of business. But we really aren't the ones who are making that happen.' "

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5. "Internet giant CMGI announced it was spending $523 million to acquire yesmail.com, which delivers targeted promotional messages to people's e-mail boxes. Ah, the promise of the Web: half a billion dollars for the online equivalent of telephone solicitors."

6. "Microsoft's stock soared this week after the long-awaited Windows 2000 operating system was released to manufacturing plants. Now, given that Windows 2000 wasn't exactly a secret, it's not clear why anyone who bought Microsoft this week wouldn't have bought it a couple of weeks ago. Of course, maybe they just thought it was never going to appear. I guess it's easier to underpromise and overdeliver when no one believes in you to begin with."

7. "The Wall Street Journal reported that Mahir Cagri, the Turkish man who became a cyber-star because of his wiggy home page featuring the dreaded photo of him in a Speedo and his inimitable slogan 'I kiss you!' has gotten two offers from Hollywood studios to 'film his life story.' Ms. Pascal, I think we've just found the next Adam Sandler vehicle!"