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

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9:00 AM EST, Friday, December 19, 2008: Trust. That's what's suddenly evaporated on Wall Street. Madoff sent out monthly statements to his clients. They looked like Citibank bank statements or Schwab brokerage statements. Now everyone is asking, are these any better? Are they worth the paper they're written on?

My hedge fund told me his outside administrator generates my monthly statement using figures he gets directly from the hedge fund's prime broker, who happens to be Morgan Stanley. Before my hedge fund employed the outside administrator, he used to fax me a copy of the end-of-month statement from the prime broker. Apparently I was the only client who asked for this level of ongoing detail.

Everyone is getting in on Madoff. Rep. Anthony Werner (D-N.Y.) held a press conference outside of Madoff’s Manhattan apartment building and said Madoff should be living in a “dank, cold jail cell” rather than his $7 million New York City penthouse.

Wow. Oil is below $40 a barrel. Six months ago, it was $145. That's a 70% price drop.

This morning oil futures are down to an incredible $33.44 a barrel, despite OPEC's biggest production cut in more than a decade.

To my brain, there are three messages.

1. No one can predict this sort of sharp, fast drop. Similar drops happened in equities. The only protection remains our inviolate 15% Stop Loss Rule. Get out when it's fallen 15% from its peak.

2. The drop reflects less hedge fund meddling, but mostly declining demand -- a reflection of the severity of our present worldwide recession.

3. This is going to seriously hurt some middle eastern economies, like Dubai and Saudi.

4. Cash remains king.

More stuff you can't predict:
+ S&P downgraded 11 financials this morning. Just as you thought the financials had some shot at recovering, the idiots at S&P downgrade them. Talk about after the horse had bolted.

+ Bush announced $13+ billion short-term aid for the auto industry. This came after Congress had rejected the idea. There seems to be no conditions to the "loan" about management changes, union givebacks, etc. Meantime, new autos are cheaper than old autos . That's right. The discounts the auto companies are offering to move their inventory is bringing prices down hugely.

How values have dropped: A year ago, the Royal Bank of Scotland paid $100 billion for ABN Amro. That would now buy:

* Citibank $22,5 billion (down 74%)
* Morgan Stanley $10,5 billion (down 72%)
* Goldman Sachs $21 billion (down 67%)
* Merrill Lynch $12,3 billion (down 77%)
* Deutsche Bank $13 billion (down 71%)
* Barclays $12,7 billion (down 71%)

And still leave $8 billion change - with which you would be able to pick up General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and the Honda F1 team.

Source: Financial Mail, December 19, 2008.

I like Lewis Black. He's a Jewish comedian, who appears occasionally on The Daily Show, but also does standup alone. Here's Lewis on Christmas versus Chanukah. He has several DVDs. My favorites: Black on Broadway and Red, White & Screwed. They make great holiday gifts and great family viewing -- if you can take the occasional four letter words.

If only your customers were as excited as Apple's. Apple just opened its first store in Germany. To watch a panorama photo of the mob who visited the opening, click here.

According to the store’s official website, Apple employees were going to hand out T-shirts to the first 2,500 people who showed up. Judging from the panorama, they didn’t bring enough.

The cheap charms of eBay and Craigslist. A friend runs a hedge fund. He's been renting furniture. Bad idea. Better idea: Buy it on eBay. His breakeven -- about two months. The "big" killer? Shipping cost more than the furniture.

I have no idea if these guys are any good. But what a great name for a band:

For their appearances.

Run from anyone who's coughing. There's a really nasty cold/flu going around. My wife has had it for over a week. In desperation, she went on antibiotics last night and seems a little better this morning.

Something stupid, for a change:
Two nuns are ordered to paint a room in the convent. Mother Superior says they must not get even a drop of paint on their habits. After conferring about this for a while, the two nuns decide to lock the door of the room, strip off their habits, and paint in the nude. In the middle of the project, there comes a knock at the door.

"Who is it?" calls one of the nuns.

"Blind man," replies a voice from the other side of the door. The two nuns look at each other and shrug, and, deciding that no harm can come from letting a blind man into the room, they open the door.

"Nice gazongas," says the man, "where do you want these blinds?"

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, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.