Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
Feb. 10 2000 6:41 PM

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Will roller coasters always exist? If someday they cease to exist, what metaphor will we use to describe the oscillations of the stock market, and especially of the Nasdaq, which leapt 122 points today after falling just about that yesterday, even though there was not a single earnings report (with the possible exception of WorldCom) or news event (unless you count the absence of cyber-attacks) of consequence? Perhaps we'll give up on metaphors (oh, wait, how about "a jumpy heartbeat"?). Perhaps we'll give up on the ceaseless monitoring of each minute's movement in stock prices.

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No, we won't.

1. "Headline of the week: 'NatWest Is Said To Concede It Will Be Bought.' What else could NatWest's execs have done? Keep believing that the people from the Royal Bank of Scotland who were wandering around all over the place, monopolizing the copiers, and yammering on the phone would eventually disappear?"

2. "News Corp's earnings fell sharply from a year ago, thanks mainly to weak performance from its film division. Two years ago, News Corp had the box-office results from Titanic to report, and last year it had the results from the video releases of Titanic and There's Something About Mary to report. This year, it had the results from Anna and the King to report. Oddly, News Corp's press release did not dwell on the difference."

3. "Russia announced that it was raising alcohol prices. Once the new edict takes effect, vodka will be a third again as expensive as it is today. Somehow you have to believe this is going to make the stockpiling people did for Y2K look like child's play."

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4. "Nike's shares dropped to a 52-week low after the company said it would fall short of analysts' earnings estimates for at least the next few quarters. Nike's president said the company 'had never been stronger from a competitive perspective.' 'Because our competitors are many times more buffoonish than we,' he might have added, but didn't."

5. "Last year was a great year for Web retailers, at least in terms of sales, which totaled $4 billion and were up hundreds of percent from the year before. Of course, three-quarters of the $4 billion came from five Web sites, which means 120 divided the other one-fourth. You can make a good living running the corner store. But then there aren't many corner stores that once had billion-dollar market caps."

6. "After its Web site was hacked earlier this week, online broker E*Trade was besieged with calls from customers who claimed that they had been financially hurt because they hadn't been able to make trades. E*Trade announced it would deal with these complaints on an individual basis. What it should do is just post that famous study of individual investors that shows that the stocks people sell go up by considerably more than the stocks people buy, and then, in big block letters, say, 'The hackers saved you money.' Of course, this would undercut E*Trade's entire reason for existence. But it would be true."

7. "Slumping retailer Tommy Hilfiger, whose revenues were down 12 percent in the second half of last year, has signed up golfer David Toms as its celebrity athlete endorser of choice. Of course, Toms is a 'celebrity' in the sense that Hudson Hawk was a 'movie,' but what the hell."