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Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor. Previous Columns
8:30 AM Tuesday, February 22, 2005: It's important to begin the new week on a happy note. This morning Smith Barney, the stockbroker part of Citigroup, issued an analyst report which actually began, "The equity market looks ready to head back into rally mode, driven by sentiment, semis and still-attractive valuation – thus we are adding beta." Here's my favorite chart from the Citigroup report. It just makes you want to go out and give your local Smith Barney zillions of orders for the stocks they're pushing (oops, recommending) -- Applied Materials, Cisco, Intel, Altria, Liberty Media, Carnival Corp., American Express, Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, and Cintas. Go to town. Make your broker rich. Give to charity.

My read of this chart suggests that year to year bookings in semiconductors (the green line) are slumping. But it is a cute chart.

Great weekend. Claire and her friends were in town for her birthday. Nice bunch of kids with their heads screwed on straight and all obsessed with their careers. At their age -- mid-twenties -- I shudder to remember where I was. How the world has changed.

The Economist's survey on hedge funds concluded
+ They're very popular. There's been a huge explosion in them.
+ They can account for more than half the daily volume on the New York Stock Exchange.
+ They make their prime broker a great deal of money.
+ They make their owners a great deal of money.
+ They don't so so well for their investors.
+ It's almost impossible to figure out accurately how well hedge funds have done, since the bad ones close down and/or don't report their results. One researcher "concludes that for all their vaunted talent, hedge funds perform less well than cheaper mutual funds."

The Economist concludes: "Investors of all sorts, you have been warned. If you want to take your chances with hedge funds, understand what you are doing—and, if you are a pension-fund trustee, do it with liability insurance tucked into your back pocket. All investments need to be watched. Right now, it seems, hedge funds need to be watched more carefully than most."

Here are the charts from The Economist: The first shows growth in numbers. The second shows growth in assets under management and declining returns. The third shows where monies are invested, with the most popular hedge funds being "fund of funds," which the Economist says have the worst performance.

If You Think You've Heard It All, Take a Left and Hit Traffic Court. From today's New York Times, "They come with stories, small scripts meant to persuade. Under fluorescent lights and peeling signs, they face a sturdy group of straight-faced judges and they talk. The topic is traffic, and in New York City's traffic court, everyone still remembers the greatest story of them all.

It was in the mid-1980's. A man was accused of making an illegal turn. He confessed but insisted it was not his fault. He couldn't help it, he said. The poisonous airborne fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union arrived in New York and hit his elbow, which was sticking out his driver-side window, and this distraction caused him to turn his car accidentally. The defense failed. So the man produced a doctor's note saying that he had eaten bad turkey."

Neat gadget from Radio Shack. $10 buys you this ultra-light, hang-on-the-ear light. Great for reading in bed, lighting up your laptop's keyboard, doing close work, or just looking geeky.

What happens if they privatize social security? I have no idea if privatizing the thing makes sense or not. But this photo cracked me up...

Only in America: I have no idea where this photo is from. It also cracked me up.

Regions Bank Customer Center. Account Confirmation Required. Emails from banks and PayPal with words like "Account Confirmation Required" are fraudulent. Delete them instantly, if not sooner. End of story.

The Gates in New York's Central Park are still there. Today the Park is under a light blanket of snow. It's gorgeous. Please come visit.

Free Meat! And the Superior Intelligence Women:
It was many years ago since the embarrassing day when a young woman, with a baby in her arms, entered his butcher shop and confronted him with the news that the baby was his and asked what was he going to do about it?
Finally he offered to provide her with free meat until the boy was 16.
She agreed.
He had been counting the years off on his calendar, and one day the teenager who had been collecting the meat each week, came into the shop and said, "I'll be 16 tomorrow."
"I know," said the butcher with a smile, "I've been counting too, tell your mother, when you take this parcel of meat home, that it is the last free meat she'll get, and watch the expression on her face."
When the boy arrived home he told his mother.
The woman nodded and said, "Son, go back to the butcher and tell him I also have had free bread, free milk, free groceries and free gas for the last 16 years and watch the expression on on HIS face!"

The Amazing Italian
A salesman drove into a small town where a circus was playing. A sign read: "Don't Miss The Amazing Italian".
The salesman bought a ticket and sat down. There, under The Big Top, in the center ring, was a table with three walnuts on it.
Standing next to it was an old Italian.
Suddenly, the old man dropped his pants, whipped out his huge male member and smashed all the walnuts with three mighty swings! The crowd erupted in applause and the elderly Italian was carried off on their shoulders.
Fifteen years later the salesman visited the same little town, found the same circus and saw the same faded sign that read, "Don't Miss The Amazing Italian".
He couldn't believe the old guy was still alive - much less still doing his act!
He bought a ticket. Again, the center ring was illuminated. This time, however, instead of walnuts, three coconuts were placed on the table.
The Italian stood before them, then suddenly dropped his pants and smashed the coconuts with three swings of his amazing member.
The crowd went wild!
Flabbergasted, the salesman requested a meeting with him after the show.
"You're incredible!" he told the Italian, "But I have to know something. I saw your act 15 years ago and you were using walnuts. Why the switch from walnuts to coconuts?"
"Well," said the Italian, "My eyes aren't what they used to be."

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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