Technology Investor 

Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor. Previous Columns
8:30 AM Friday, April 15, 2005: More reasons NOT to be in technology stocks. From today's Wall Street Journal, IBM "jolted investors and the technology sector late yesterday by reporting financial results for the first quarter that fell short of Wall Street expectations and the company's own goals. The big computer company, reporting after the markets closed and two business days ahead of schedule, said that while it had slight revenue growth, it had trouble closing deals at the end of the quarter. The announcement from IBM followed poorer results from struggling rival Sun Microsystems Inc. and Unisys Corp. that together were the latest evidence that big technology companies are having a harder time selling their goods and services to corporate clients."

Fact is there's no BIG incentive in technology for corporations to spend money on technology. Remember the old booms -- Y2K, commerce on the Internet, wiring the world with fiber? The world of technology is changing to no-cost, low-cost, outsourcing, eke-out-living. Not exciting. And investors are souring on even relatively good news.

The only hot technology company is Apple.
It just reported a more than sixfold increase in fiscal second-quarter profit as revenue rose 70%. The results far exceeded Apple's earnings forecast. Revenue jumped to $3.24 billion from $1.91 billion. That exceeded the company's own $2.9 billion revenue forecast.

But it wasn't good enough. Apple's stock skidded:

You could argue that it had risen "too much" earlier. But yesterday's $3.78 was pretty severe. Another sign that tech is out of favor.

On Monday, I wrote about tech stocks to short. Click here.

Another widow's and orphans stock dies: This one is predictable. GM makes unexciting cars, has unexciting management and has lousy relations with its unions. Sure signs of a continuing disaster. Yesterday General Motors stock dropped to its lowest level since 1993 after the head of the United Auto Workers said the union won't reopen its contract to reduce the auto maker's health-care burden.

Health care is not GM's only problem. Pensions are hefty, too. Here's the background on that one. In 1950 GM -- and I quote from this month's Atlantic Monthly -- began to change a new form of pension. It was called "defined benefits." It would withhold money from paychecks and add money of its own to build up a reserve to pay retirees into the future. The scheme promised retirees a specific (defined) monthly payment until they died. The problem, sadly, is that earnings on the money in the pension fund haven't kept up with its pension obligations. And GM now reports that its current pension obligations add $675 to the cost of every vehicle it produces. Lower cost, newer car companies, like Toyota, don't have these burdens. I can see GM's stock skidding further. Sad.

This is just going to go on and on.. We'll hear about scandals from the late 1990s for years to come. Latest disaster: Raytheon said it placed its chief financial officer and another employee on leave amid a SEC investigation into the company's disclosures and accounting practices, primarily related to its Raytheon Aircraft unit. Raytheon said it has submitted an offer of settlement to the SEC to resolve the investigation into the company's disclosures and accounting practices from 1997 to 2001.

Before you switch to a broker -- online or real-life check their accounting system. Do not ever use Deutsche Bank. Try to figure out what you paid, what you made or where you stand with them. Good luck. Their accounting "system" is totally screwed up. You would think that being German they'd be precise, accurate and logical. You'd be wrong. Fortunately they fired me as a client.

Do not call registry: Don't forget to register your phone numbers with or call 1-888-382-1222. You may enjoy undisturbed dinners.

BroadVoice $20/month unlimited calling: We had a dinner party last night. One friend complained she was paying MCI over $200 a month for her long distance calls. I suggested she try BroadVoice. For $20 a month you get unlimited U.S. and Canada calling and unlimited calling to 21+ countries -- basically all the countries you want to call. Click on the button on the left. BroadVoice are friends of mine. They do good work.

Watch out for cell phone charges: Friends who know tell me corporate cell phone charges are way over the top. The story: Companies negotiate bulk deals. The cell phone companies agree. Their billing systems can't accommodate the "deals." So they bill at the normal consumer rate, i.e. much higher. Bingo, their corporate customers are way overcharged.

Raising money for your favorite startup: Yesterday, I got roped into seeing a "presentation" for a startup. Notes on what not to do:
1. Don't clutter your PowerPoint slides with so many words they're difficult to read.
2. Check your equipment beforehand. Don't forget your cables at home.
3. Don't forget to check your accountants' projections. Numbering pages would be useful. Headings would be nice.
4. Make sure you know the answer to the question "What is your market cap before and after money raise?"
5. When asked "What about editorial", don't answer "We'll be hiring an editor...."
6. Don't say things like "I'd prefer to start next year, but if we raise the money in the next few weeks we can start in June."

It's hard to put your finger on what constitutes a non-persuasive presentation.... Not having key areas thought through doesn't help. Having a key founder only devote himself part-time to the project also hurts.

Why pay more for glasses? A firm called "For Eyes" sells two glasses with lenses for $99. I bought another couple of pairs from them yesterday.

They do great work. They have 120 stores. Why pay more? And you will -- even with all the "sales" at your local store -- most of which are totally phony.

AIG is another WorldCom: Too much smell. Too many unknowns. Too many questions. For years people (and their competitors) asked the question about WorldCom "How could they be so profitable?" They have asked the same questions about AIG. Competitors, who knew intimately the business of telecom, used to shake their heads and say "It's not possible." Later it turned out it wasn't. It was gigantic fraud. How much of AIG's profits will turn out to smell? Your guess.

Today is tax day - Part 1
The Internal Revenue Service sent their auditor to a synagogue.
The auditor is doing all the checks and then turns to the Rabbi, and says, "I noticed that you buy a lot of candles."
"Yes," answered the Rabbi.
"Well, Rabbi, what do you do with the candle drippings?" he asked.
"A good question," noted the Rabbi. "We actually save them up and when we have enough, we send them back to the candle maker and every now and then, they send us a free box of candles."
"Oh," replied the auditor somewhat disappointed that his unusual question actually had a practical answer. So he thought he'd go on, in his obnoxious way... "Rabbi, what about all these matzo purchases? What do you do with the crumbs from the matzo?"
"Ah, yes," replied the Rabbi calmly, "we actually collect up all the crumbs from the matzo and when we have enough, we send them in a box back to the manufacturer and every now and then, they send a box of matzo balls."
"Oh," replied the auditor, thinking hard how to fluster the Rabbi.
"Well, Rabbi," he went on, "what do you do with all the foreskins from the circumcisions?"
"Yes, here too, we do not waste," answered the Rabbi.
"What we do is save up all the foreskins, and when we have enough we send them to the IRS ".
" IRS?" questioned the auditor in disbelief.
"Ah, yes," replied the Rabbi, "IRS ...and about once a year, they send us a little prick like you ."

Today is tax day - Part 2
An old Indian chief sat in his hut on the reservation, smoking a ceremonial pipe and eyeing two U.S. government officials sent to interview him. "Chief Two Eagles," asked one official, "You have observed the white man for 90 years. You've seen his wars and his material wealth. You've seen his progress, and the damage he's done."
The chief nodded in agreement.
The official continued, "Considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white man go wrong?"
The chief stared at the government officials for over a minute and then calmly replied, "When white man found the land, Indians were running it. No taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, women did all the work, medicine man free, Indian man spent all day hunting and fishing, all night having sex."
Then the chief leaned back and smiled, "Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that."

Harry Newton

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. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. That money will help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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