Technology Investor 

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

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9:00 AM EST, Friday, December 5, 2008: Maybe it's making a bottom. Maybe it's not. (Most likely, in my opinion, it's not.) But this present stockmarket is "too hard" to play up or down. Too many strange happenings you can't predict -- like hedge fund redemptions, government bailouts and end of day manipulations.

What we know: 70% of GDP is consumer spending. And the consumer is doing awfully. He's losing his job. His spending is frozen -- except at Wal-Mart. And corporate earnings are plummeting.

Bloomberg this morning reported,Payrolls shrank by 533,000 workers in November, the biggest loss since December 1974, after decreasing a revised 320,000 the prior month (October). November's job losses exceeded all estimates in a Bloomberg News survey of 73 economists. The jobless rate rose to 6.7 percent, the highest level since 1993.

This is not the Great Depression, when unemployment topped 33%. But it's also not the roaring 90s or the Housing Boom of earlier this decade.

Robert Toll told CNBC yesterday that things "are in a lot worse shape than six months ago. Everyone's scared to death." He's CEO of luxury home builder, Toll Brothers. His stock (TOL) is, remarkably, holding up.

I'm not into gloom and doom. But the facts are there for all to see. And the implications for all of us are obvious -- Cash is king. Cash buys you opportunities. In today's market, things are getting cheap.

A very profitable New York City tanning salon was put on the market recently for the bargain price of $1 million. (It really was a bargain.) Several weeks later, it will now sell for $500,000. Yes, people are still paying to tan themselves -- at least in Manhattan, where what you look like counts.

Many local businesses are doing great:

+ Home safes. Fearing a collapse of the banks, everyone is bringing cash home. Now the fear is of fire.

+ Consignment stores. Give them your unwanted clothes. You get half of what they sell them for. Sales are booming. Who can afford to shop at Sachs or Niemanns any longer. (Actually, that's not fair. My sources -- my wife and her friends -- tell me these stores have most everything at 50% to 70% off.)

+ The repo man. He takes your unpaid car or boat. Repo men are highly skilled. He can load your car and be off in under a minute. He's the only person trading up to a bigger house today.

+ The debt settlement business. They negotiate your debts with your creditors, like the credit card companies. They get a 15% fee up front. For their money, they arrange escrow accounts and payment schedules. Typically, they cut your credit card bills by 50%. The credit card companies get screwed.

+ The jewelry liquidation business. Sell them all the gold and diamonds you're no longer wearing You won't get much, since gold, silver, platinum are down. But what you'll get is better than a slap in the belly and better than giving it to your spoiled niece.

+ Divorce lawyers. The typical scenario. "I married you for your money. Now you have no money and you're grouchy 'cause you're dumb and you lost it all. I'm outta here."

Not everything "obvious" is obvious. (OSTK) is down from $30 to $9.36 and it's losing money. No one wants things no one else wants.

Collection attorneys are doing poorly. It's harder to collect. Bankruptcies are up. Business is down 30%.

My idea for the Detroit bailout. Instead of gifting them $34 billion, let's buy cars from them. Let's see, for $34 billion, we can buy 1.36 million cars for an average price of $25,000. Now the White House runs a lottery. Anyone and everyone can submit their name to a special web site. On January 19, the last day of the Bush White House, they pick 1.36 million names out of a hat. Bingo, we've accomplished four things:

1. Everyone (or at least 1.36 million people) will remember George Bush as the greatest president ever.

2. Detroit gets to sell 1.36 million cars it couldn't have.

3. No one has to worry about all the horrid conditions that should be applied on a bailout handout -- like firing all the present incompetent management, reducing union benefits to be competitive with foreign auto makers; cutting back redundant dealerships and reducing the number of brands.

4. Congresspeople and Senators are not eligible for the lottery. That will be their reward for screwing up the TARP and sundry other bailout idiocies in recent months -- like gifting money to Goldman Sachs which promptly paid it all out in employee bonuses.

I haven't bought a Detroit car since my wonderful 1965 Ford Mustang. But I'd take a free GM Volt -- Oops. that one won't be ready in my lifetime.

Obsessed with many screens. Many screens make light work. I routinely run four screens from my laptop -- the laptop's and three external screens. This morning I'm running five screens. That's five screens from one laptop -- my Lenovo ThinkPad X61.

Harry's desk. December 5 showing stockmarket quotes, the Wall Street Journal, Ourlook, email and Dreamweaver.

I won't keep it this way. But it demonstrates the wonders of a great new product -- the $129 ViBook.

The ViBook is half the size of a cigarette pack.

The ViBook is plugs into a USB port or a USB hub. Every time you plug one in, you power up another monitor. You can plug in as many as six. I figure four is enough for now, though I may go to five.

The thing plugs into your monitor's DVI port or its VGA/RGB port. Choose the DVI port. It's much clearer. The thing works with Windows and Macs -- but you must have a Mac with an Intel processor (all the latest ones do).

You can plug it directly into your monitor and have only a thin cable going to your computer's USB slot or USB hub. Makes for a really neat installation.

Having many screens is great -- one for Outlook's inbox, one for stock quotes, ones for the Internet, one for an Excel spreadsheet, one for answering emails and one for buying goodies at Amazon to reward yourself for being so productive. You can easily move things from one monitor to another, or spread an Excel spreadsheet across five monitors and wallow in complete fantasy.

The ViBook will power up to a 1680 x 1050 pixel screen -- which typically is a 22 inch monitor. I have one in the middle. My others are 19" inch monitors -- 1280 x 1024 pixels.

You buy the thing from the maker Village Tonic or from Amazon, when it gets them in stock. I love my ViBooks. They work flawlessly. And I get lots of exercise moving my head around, chasing screens.

The best slippers are Cole Haan's Zermatt. I bought mine from Zappos. I like the ones with shearling inside. I have one pair in black and one pair in brown. They were on sale for $95 on Zappos yesterday. But I couldn't find the slipper on their web site this morning. Chase around on Google.

The English language.
Three immigrants to the U. S. were just mastering the language. One was telling the others about the difficulty they were having in attempting to start a family. He said, "I think my wife must be impregnable." The second said," that's not the right word, she is inconceivable". To which the third replied, "You are both wrong she is inscrutable."

Your kids will like this.
A down and out musician was playing his harmonica in the middle of a busy shopping mall. Striding over, a policeman asked, “May I please see your permit?” I don’t have one,” confessed the musician.

“In that case, you’ll have to accompany me.”

“Splendid!” exclaimed the musician. “What shall we sing?”

New investing terms.
VALUE INVESTING -- The art of buying low and selling lower.

P/E RATIO -- The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.

BROKER -- What my broker has made me.

STANDARD & POOR -- Your life in a nutshell.

STOCK ANALYST -- Idiot who just downgraded your favorite stock.

STOCK SPLIT -- When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your remaining assets equally between themselves.

FINANCIAL PLANNER -- A guy whose phone has been disconnected.

MARKET CORRECTION -- The day after you buy stocks.

CASH FLOW-- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.

INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR -- Last year's brilliant investor who's now locked up in a nuthouse.

PROFIT -- An archaic word no longer in use.

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.