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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment, Technology Investor. Harry Newton

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9:00 AM ET, Wednesday, December 9, 2009: The biggest part of investing is saying NO. I get to do it a lot these days. Perhaps I'm older and wiser. Perhaps more skeptical. Perhaps it's because Warren Buffett sees all the good deals and I get to see the drecky leftovers. Perhaps it's because I'm late. It's not March, 2009. Perhaps it's because good deals simply come along not very often. Patience is a virtue, despite the ultra-low returns on cash today.

A real estate friend didn't buy anything for nearly three years. Now he's working on his biggest-ever deal. He's achieving a 12.5% unleveraged return on a bunch of commercial properties he's buying. That figure would have been 4% two years ago. He's buying at less than half the price the seller paid. Deals like this are still most unusual. We'll see more of them as the banks loosen up in coming months -- if they ever do. (See the TARP story below)..

I spent much of yesterday looking at a bunch of commercial REITs. What attracted me was their high yields.

What turned me off was their volatility. Sample:

Could I personally live with this volatility? Answer: No. Could I live with the fear that some of the mortgages they own will turn out to be worthless? Answer: No. Could I live with the fear that they borrow money to juice up their returns -- especially given my belief that borrowing is not healthy? No. And finally, could I live with the fact that I don't really understand their business?

I spent hours yesterday studying their financials. I even listened to a recent investor conference call. I didn't like that each call-in question started with, "Congratulations, guys on the recent great financials..."

So much for that idea.

When in doubt, stay out.

Elizabeth Warren is super-smart. She's a Harvard law professor and Congress's TARP overseer. Her basic point: Our TARP taxpayer money saved the big banks, and gave them money to gamble (also called trade) with, but basically didn't help you and I.

But, with unemployment at 10%, she says TARP has failed to stop (from USA Today):

• Rising home foreclosures. Lenders had permanently modified just 10,187 mortgages through Oct. 31 under a TARP-funded Treasury program to help struggling borrowers hang on to their homes. "This is a disappointingly small number," Warren says. She said that the nation could see as many as 13 million foreclosure starts — up from 5.5 million since mid-2007 — and that Treasury is preparing for only 4 million.

• A credit crunch. "The availability of credit, the lifeblood of the economy, remains low," the report says. Just 5% of TARP money has targeted small-business and consumer lending.

• The threat big banks pose to the financial system. Last year's bailout sent the message that some banks are so important that the government won't let them fail, the panel warns. That helps those banks raise money — and makes it harder for small banks to compete with them.

"While many of the largest banks received unprecedented support, smaller banks have been allowed to fail," the report says. There have been 130 bank failures this year.

Meantime, the biggest banks have gotten bigger. "As a small number of banks acquire a larger share of the market and competition decreases, the systemic risk they pose rises," the panel warns.

Yet another government program gone awry.

Ebooks for Christmas: It's tempting to buy your beloved an eBook for Christmas. But unless they travel every second of their waking lives, I'd hold off. There are three reasons:

1. The entire industry is in gigantic flux. For example, Sony is recalling all its readers for a ten-day overhaul.

2. Most of the newest books -- i.e. the ones you desperately want to read -- aren't available. Amazon is screwing publishers and authors, paying them only 35%. It keeps 65%. Publishers and authors aren't convinced. Would you?

3. You will not like the first generation of ebook readers. They're slow, cumbersome and kludgy. They need faster processors and better software.

The best choice -- for now -- is to pick up the free BN Reader software. It runs on your laptop. It comes with a couple of free books. See if you like reading them on screen. Then buy Born to Run.. Don't buy Barnes and Noble's Nook. It's stupid.

You are your own worst enemy. No one can damage you more than you can damage yourself. It's an old adage. The latest case of shooting yourself in the foot is our friend Tiger Woods. Excerpted from Bloomberg this morning.

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Advertisements featuring Tiger Woods have disappeared from prime-time broadcast television and many cable channels following reports of his extramarital affairs, according to data from Nielsen Co.

The last prime-time ad featuring the 33-year-old golfer was a 30-second Gillette Co. spot ran on Nov. 29, according to New York- based Nielsen. Woods also was absent from ads on weekend sports programs tracked, including NFL games, Nielsen said.

The No. 1 ranked golfer’s standing with the public has plunged in the wake of reports of infidelity that followed a Nov. 27 car accident outside his home near Orlando, Florida. Woods’s ranking among celebrity endorsers tumbled to 24th from 6th, according to the Davie Brown Index, which is used to gauge the ability of personalities to influence shoppers. ...

Woods has endorsement agreements with Accenture Plc, Nike Inc., PepsiCo Inc.’s Gatorade, Tag Heuer International SA watches, Electronic Arts Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette. None has said they’ve changed their marketing.

The golfer’s $110 million in annual income from endorsements and tournaments, as estimated by Forbes magazine, hinges on his standing with consumers. Woods ranked as the world’s fourth-highest paid celebrity in the 12 months through June 30, the magazine said. In October, he became the first athlete to top $1 billion in career earnings.

Woods posted a statement on his Web site on Dec. 2 saying he let his family down with “transgressions” and hasn’t been true to his “family values.” He didn’t address reports of infidelity that appeared in media including US Weekly magazine. ...

Following the car accident, Woods withdrew from last weekend’s Chevron World Challenge on NBC, an event he has hosted since 1999 to benefit his charitable foundation. Other than an announcement of his absence by TV host Dan Hicks, there was no other mention and the network didn’t air any ads featuring Woods in two days of coverage, according to the New York Post.

A touching visit from Grandma and Grandpa.
Grandpa finds a bottle of Viagra in his son's medicine cabinet. May he use one?

The son said, "I don't think you should take one Dad. They're very strong and very expensive."

"How much?" asked Grandpa.

"$10 a pill," Answered the son.

"I'd still like to try one. Before we leave in the morning, I'll put the money Under the pillow."

Later the next morning, the son finds $110 under the pillow. He called Grandpa, "I told you each pill was $10, not $110.

"I know," said Grandpa. "The hundred is from Grandma!"

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.