Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Technology Investor. Harry Newton
9:00 AM EST, Tuesday, February 24, 2009. Google,
Research in Motion and Apple haven't hit the wall, yet. They will. Advertising
has fallen off a cliff (affecting Google). Consumer spending has fallen off
another cliff. That will hurt RIMM and Apple. It's legitimate to have 5% of
your portfolio in shorts.
market is not coming back any time soon. It has become increasingly evident
that Washington bailout efforts are not effective -- or worse, are not being
perceived as effective. (That excludes the financing of handsome multi-billion
dollar bonuses for Wall Street execs. They have proven very effective.)
major problem remains mixing capitalism and politics. The prime example is
GM, which, under the rules of capitalism, should be in Chapter 11 and being
reorganized. But arguments like "it's too big to fail" and "there
are too many jobs (i.e. votes) at stake" are muddying things and making
finding an intelligent solution difficult -- if not impossible. And the stock
continues to crumble.
cap is now just over $1 billion -- far less than some of its factories cost.
Buy GM for $1.5 billlion. Put it into Chapter 7. Fire everyone. Sell each
of GM's factories off at fire sale prices. Give the remaining cars to each
of the workers -- their severance pay. I bet you could make a cool $5 billion
on this deal.
suck. CDARS stands for Certificate of Deposit
Account Registry Service. Let's say you have $10 million to invest in FDIC-insured
certificates of deposit. You go to your local bank. You give them your money.
They put your money in their certificate of deposit for say $250,000. CDARS
service then spreads the rest around through various FDIC-insured banks all
over the country. So far, so good.
remember this is Wall Street. And there are FEES. Lots of them. Here's
an example. Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust of New York will pay me 2.60%
on a one-year FDIC-insured certificate of deposit in their bank. If
I give them $10 million to invest through CDARS, they will pay me 2%.
That means I'm paying them $60,000 a year for the privilege of saving me (or
my assistant) an hour or two of calling other banks. I am not impressed.
remains my motto. When IBM had THINK, I had Check. Check. Check. That was
a great motto for a publishing company. Now it's even better for an investor.
And today's warning (cracked record, drum roll) is securities made up by Wall
Street, in particular:
Certificates of Deposit. Not all bank certificates of deposit are insured
by FDIC. Check. Check. Check.
ProShares. Especially the double shorts, like the very popular SKF. For some
reason that no one can figure (me included), they just don't seem to work
the way they're meant to. I've written about these before and given examples.
For now, steer clear of them.
up and move on. He was 92. He was taking a lesson on the court
next to me yesterday afternoon. He had just lost his family's entire savings
-- his, his sister and his children. The entire family fortune was between
$10 million and $20 million. He wouldn't be more specific.
What did he
have left to live on, I asked? He replied, his social security and a small
IRA, i.e. bupkas.
He was, by profession, a CPA. I asked how could he have given all his money
to Madoff? He said he was skeptical in the beginning. "Madoff was a one-man
show." But then Forbes magazine published an article praising the Madoff
stock trading operations. "It wasn't like the typical Forbes article,"
he said, "which is critical and sarcastic. It was positive, upbeat, laudatory."
What were Madoff's returns like. I asked? "If the S&P went up 20%
in one year, he'd be up 18%. If the S&P was down, he'd be flat. He never
lost money in a single year. There were months when he lost a little money,
but, by the end of the year, he was flat or up."
Weren't you suspicious? I asked? He replied, "I should have been. After
all, I was a CPA. But Madoff flooded me with paper confirmations of trades,
My statements were detailed and they looked solid."
Had you ever met Madoff? "No," he replied.
Our conversation was surreal, as though he enjoyed his new celebrity status
of being a Madoff victim.
I pray when I'm 92, I play tennis as well as he does.
New York Magazine's latest cover. The press is having a ball with Madoff.
Florida Burglary. Some of this is actually true.
When southern Florida resident Nathan Radlich's house was burglarized recently,
thieves ignored his wide screen plasma TV, his laptop, and even left his Rolex
What they did
take, however, was a generic white cardboard box filled with a grayish-white
powder. (That's the way the police report described it.)
for the Fort Lauderdale police said that it looked similar to high grade cocaine,
and they'd probably thought they'd hit the big time.
stood in front of numerous TV cameras and pleaded with the burglars: 'Please
return the cremated remains of my sister, Gertrude."
The next morning,
the bullet-riddled corpse of a local drug dealer known as Hoochie Pevens was
found on Nathan's doorstep.
box was there too; about half of Gertrude's ashes remained.
to the box was a note: 'Hoochie sold us the bogus blow, so we wasted Hoochie.
Sorry we snorted your sister. No hard feelings. Have a nice day.'
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
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