Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
8:00 AM EST, Wednesday, October 8, 2008: Reserve
banks around the world cut their interest rates:
America to 1.5%
+ Europe to 3.75%.
+ England to 4.5%.
+ Canada to 2.5%
+ Sweden 4.25%.
+ China to 6.93%.
Australia had previously cut its 6%.
The hope is lower
rates will encourage banks to lend. Banks are presently frozen. Every time I
write that, a reader emails, "But I just got a loan." So, let's say
they're not lending enough to pull the world economy out of its present morass.
don't believe the rate cuts will make much of a difference. Banks will lend
when they feel like lending and that's not now. There are a lot of reasons,
including the diminished earnings outlook for most of their customers.
continue to crater. Today we may see a bounce because of the rate cuts. But
remember all bear markets have big bounces.
closed last night at $89.21. When I showed the price to the man in the Genius
Bar at the wonderfully-busy GM Apple Store, he let out an audible gasp. Apple's
stock was over $200 in December last year.
buying because stocks are cheap." I read this nonsense in a piece written
by James B. Stewart, an author with SmartMoney. Personally I have no idea what
"cheap" is any longer. All my friends who've bought during this bear
market -- thinking things were "cheap" -- have woken up to find their
stocks lower the next day. Catching a falling knife is really hard, and, for
mere mortals (like you and me), impossible.
For those of you who think you can, this chart sent to me this morning will
bring solace. Happy days will return, some day. I'm guessing the chart is accurate,
though I have not been able to check it.
in Motion has cratered. I'd written here that
RIMM would hurt big-time from Apple iPhone competition.
Now comes word
of the new BlackBerry -- the long-awaited touch-sensitive screen Storm,
coming soon. Sadly, Research in Motion made some stupid decisions with the Storm
-- no zoom (i.e. no use of two fingers) and no open platform, which means you
won't be able to buy any of the thousands of cool applications -- including
one I'm putting on the iPhone.
of stupid. RealNetworks (RNWK) recently released
a super piece of software called RealDVD. It allows you to copy a movie DVD
to your PC's hard disk and play the movie without having the physical DVD in
your PC's DVD player.
Thousands of us
downloaded a 30-day trial of RealDVD. I was just about to recommend the software
to all of you -- and pay the $29.95 for the full software myself -- when RealNetworks
got itself sued by Hollywood and a judge stopped the company from selling it.
I stuck a bunch of movies on my hard disk. I have 24 days left on my trial.
I guess when it expires, so my movies. I chatted with a fellow called Ryan Luckin,
RealNetworks senior PR manager, yesterday. I asked "What should customers
like me do?" His answer, "No comment." My conclusion: RealNetworks
is seriously dumb.
movies on PCs and Macs are a major rats nest. My favorite video software sites:
+ VideoLAN -- home to free VLC
media player, the best Windows video player. It plays more formats than Windows
+ Direct Show Dump Utility.
Best software for converting TiVo movies to MP3 format. Once converted,
you can copy your TiVo show anywhere, including emailing it to you friends or
burning it to a DVD . You no longer need TiVo's restrictive software.
Lehman's Fuld got his comeuppance. Lehman's Sept. 15 bankruptcy filing
marked one of the biggest casualties in an economic collapse that prompted President
Bush's $700 billion rescue package. It
also prompted a harsh reaction from employees who felt betrayed by their company's
One worker, pumping
iron at the company gym days after the bankruptcy filing, walked up to Fuld,
who was on a treadmill, and punched him out cold, CNBC reported.
Between 2000 and
when it collapsed, Richard Fuld received $484 million in salary and bonuses.
My stockmarket guru, Dan Good, forecasts that Mr. Fuld will spent the next ten
years of his life in court defending himself. He told Lehman shareholders some
awful lies -- "happy days are here" and then a few days later it collapsed.
everything and watch this clip from Saturday Night Live.
To see the clip, click on the photo. Or click
The is one of
funniest and most politically searing comedy sketches ever. The seven-minute
sketch featured a mock news conference of Democratic Congressional leaders on
the bailout bill, during which Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank inadvertently acknowledge
that it was Congress that blocked reform and effective oversight of mortgage
giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Then SNL comic
Kristen Wiig, playing Speaker Pelosi, introduces a parade of "victims"
of the housing crisis. These "real Americans" include two jobless
deadbeats who bought houses with no down-payment and a preppy couple who can't
flip the dozen time-share condos they bought as speculative investments.
They were followed
by actors portraying the real-life couple of Herbert and Marion Sandler. They
explained how they built a mortgage company that specialized in subprime mortgages,
which they sold to Wachovia Bank for $24.2 billion in 2006 -- one of the worst
acquisitions by any company ever. It helped precipitate the collapse of Wachovia
The Sandlers were
hustled off the stage by "Speaker Pelosi" after they said they couldn't
understand why they were invited to a news conference of "victims"
since they had done so well out of the housing crisis.
They were followed
by financier George Soros, identified as "Owner, Democratic Party."
The actor portraying Mr. Soros informs the group that the $700 billion bailout
package "basically belongs to me" and that he has decided to short
the U.S. dollar. That will trigger a devaluation "either Tuesday or Wednesday.
I haven't decided which yet. It will depend on how I feel."
The brutally wicked
sketch, which was removed from NBC's web site, must have caused tremors in left-wing
circles. The Sandlers and Mr. Soros have all been prime financial backers of
independent political groups that have secured huge influence in the Democratic
Party and helped fuel the rise of Barack Obama.
for example, were major donors to the left-wing radio network Air America as
well as the liberal housing lobby ACORN, a major player in pressuring banks
into making more subprime mortgages. They also donated $2.5 million to MoveOn.org,
the liberal group that insulted General David Petraeus as "General Betray
Us" last year. Mr. Soros contributed a like amount. In turn, Eli Pariser,
the head of MoveOn.org, was quite candid after the 2004 election about the influence
this left-wing cabal hoped to exercise: "Now it's our party: we bought
it, we own it, and we are going to take it back."
No doubt the Sandlers
and Mr. Soros were displeased with the Saturday Night Live sketch. Herbert Sandler
told the Associated Press that its portrayal of him as a predatory lender was
"crap." "We are being unfairly tarred. People have been telling
us to speak out for some time, but we didn't think it was appropriate. That
was clearly a mistake."
I excerpted some
of the above from a piece by John Fund.
the brand-new store
businessmen were having a coffee break in their soon-to-be new store. The store
wasn't ready, with only a few shelves set up.
One said to the
other, "I bet any minute now some idiot tourist is going to walk by, put
his face to the window, and ask what we're selling."
No sooner were
the words out of his mouth when, sure enough, a curious Japanese tourist walked
to the window, had a peek, and in a thick Japanese accent asked, "What
One of the men
replied sarcastically, 'We're selling assholes."
a beat, the Japanese man said, "You doing velly well, only two left!"
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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