Sure, the Nasdaq closed above 5,000 for the first time ever today, but there was a moment when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down about 12 points and the Nasdaq was up about 20 points and the calm you could feel radiating from the CNBC newspeople was palpable. In some sense, we've grown accustomed to wild swings like last week's 500-point run-up in the Dow and this week's single-day 400-point purge. Volatility defines our experience of investing, and there are enough of us who are foolish enough to believe that we can time short-term tops and bottoms that these wild swings actually seem like chances to make money. But in spite of that, or perhaps because of it, there is now something inordinately soothing about a day in which the market goes essentially nowhere. It feels like a sign that everyone's pretty content where they are, which we'd like to take as a sign that they're not about to dump their stocks and bring the parade to a brick-wall halt. Of course, it's true that even on a day when the market goes nowhere, more than 2 billion shares are usually traded, so that standing still takes a lot of effort. But the pleasures of stasis have become irresistible. Could we please have a few months of nothing but that?
1. "Germany has put forth a second candidate to head the International Monetary Fund after its first candidate was shot down because, well, he wasn't really the right person for the job. This new candidate is similarly unimpressive, but he does have the fact that he's European going for him. Of course, so did his predecessor in failure. And unfortunately, other Europeans aren't supporting him. That's going to be a great job interview: 'So, why are you here again?'"
2. "Ads for the new film The Ninth Gate feature this blurb at the top: 'Johnny Depp goes head to head with Lucifer in Roman Polanski's new thriller.' I could be wrong, but isn't a bad sign when the only blurbs you can find are ones that describe the movie instead of actually praising it?"
3. "According to a study cited in the New York Times today, if you take all of the technology and telecom companies out of the S&P 500 Index, the companies that are left are trading about where they were a year and a half ago, when it looked like the global economy was melting down. From now on, Alan Greenpsan will begin talking about the 'tech wealth effect' and the 'everything-else poverty effect' in his speeches."
4. "Six of the nation's largest movie-theater chains are planning to form a new company that will compete with MovieFone by selling tickets over the Internet and the telephone. MovieFone is not expected to respond by building movie theaters all over the country."
5. "Shares of Internet infrastructure company Redback Networks jumped 17 percent, to $383 a share, Thursday on news that the company was going to split its stock 2-for-1. These kinds of leaps on stock-split news have become routine. But what we're really waiting for is a company to announce it's splitting its stock, watch its share price run up after the announcement, and then announce it'll be splitting its stock again because of the run-up, which in turn will provoke another run-up, and so on and so on. It'll be a never-ending story."
6. "From the business wire: 'Jackpot Enterprises, one of the biggest operators of gambling machines in Nevada, announced yesterday that it planned to transform itself into an Internet investment company, with an emphasis on the business-to-business sector.' We may be on our way to an economy in which there are a couple hundred Internet companies and then a million companies investing in them."
7. "The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that employment will end up jumping by 20.3 million jobs between 1998 and 2008, with computer engineers and computer-support specialists leading the way. 'Internet investors' has apparently not yet been dubbed an official category."