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

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8:30 AM EST Thursday, February 28, 2008: The commodity boom continues, with silver, gold and oil skyrocketing. I suspect that the boom is a reflection of the flight away from stocks, money market funds and muni bond auction rate securities. The way to play this (as I've written before) is:

Best way to play the oil price hike is to buy options on futures. Jim Kingsdale, my energy guru (check out his web site, Energy Investment Strategies) tells me his initial positions on oil options futures from a couple of months ago are up over 50% so far. Jim reports that the market is starting to value long dated futures more realistically, "but there is a very long way to go."

Despite the over $100 a barrel high price for oil, there hasn't been a resurgence in alternative energy stocks. The big muffahi (spelling?) of the bunch is First Solar. It's bounced back from its lows earlier this year, but now seems flat. I suspect a tiny investment at these prices might be profitable. At some point soon, these things will get hot again.

And finally, there's the old uranium standby, which bounces around as nukes get talked about:

Auction Rate Preferreds (ARPS) revisited: I'm exhausted. My last conversation with a fellow unlucky owner of these things was close to midnight last night. Still, I encourage you to email me -- . We'll exchange phone numbers and we'll chat about our joint strategy. I really want to talk to you. Everybody I've spoken with is smarter than I am. And everyone adds a new element to our joint goal of ultimately getting our hands on our money.

To sum up: There is still no announced solution. We are all stuck unable to sell, but receiving our penalty interest (check your brokerage statements). (In case you're wondering what I'm talking about, read yesterday's column.)

Everyone is following my Make Maximum Noise, Bring Maximum Pressure Strategy. That Strategy is what I see as a pre-legal "sue their arses" strategy, which may or may not come next, although at least one law firm is sniffing around. Click here.

Right now we should all be in the collecting evidence, applying pressure mode. To wit:

1. You need to collect all the brochures that say these ARPS are cash or cash equivalents. These brochures were issued by your local broker or your local ARPS issuer. You need to do this ultra-quickly, since brokers and issuers are hastily removing this evidence from their web sites. As an example, this one is excerpted from a Morgan Stanley brochure called "Fixed Income Cash Management Investing."

This one came from a Nuveen brochure called "Nuveen FundPreferred -- AAA-rated investments offering attractive short-term inome."

2. You need to make your position known to those responsible.
Your primary bitch is with your broker (e.g. Morgan Stanley), but your key bitch is with the issuer of these securities (e.g. Nuveen). You need to explain in no uncertain words that not having access to your money is a major disaster for you, that you were sold a security that was misrepresented as short-term sellable, and that you wil never ever deal with the broker or the issuer again if this is not resolved quickly and, finally, you will have no hesitancy to sue their arses off, irrespective of what it costs. The more people who receive our pressure, the better; the more of us who apply the pressure, the better. Apply it at all levels. I hear brokers are telling their managers, "Please fix this. My customers refuse to do business with me until this is solved. I'm starving for commissions."

You can get creative. I learned yesterday that a very respectable and very successful private equity firm called Madison Dearborn had bought Nuveen for $5.75 billion. Bingo, I emailed John Canning, their chairman asking him to intervene and solve this -- for, without solving it, his $5.75 billion would be worth zilch. In my email, I wrote, "Nuveen management is frozen, fearful of doing anything, fearful of lawyers peddling fear. The world needs John Canning to break the logjam, to take charge of Nuveen and to solve our problem."

Within hours, I'd received a phone call from a partner in the firm called Tim Hurd, Managing Director - B.A., University of Michigan; M.B.A., Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.

His bio on Madison Dearborn's web site reads, "Prior to joining MDP, Mr. Hurd was with Goldman, Sachs & Co. Mr. Hurd concentrates on investments in the financial services sector and currently serves on the Boards of Directors of CapitalSource Inc., Nuveen Investments, Inc. and Children's Memorial Foundation."

I had a lovely 30-minute chat with him. He had no solution, but he said they (he and Nuveen) were working "around the clock" to find a solution; they were researching "multiple directions." He was proud of the fact that Nuveen was the first issuer who had held a conference call for its ARPS investors (see yesterday's column.). No matter how hard I pushed, I couldn't get an estimated date for "the solution." I did get some sense that he understood the urgency. If you wish his email address to add your concern, send me an email. I don't want to put Tim Hurd's email on a public web site, since that would only expose him to spam.

In case you missed it, you can listen to a replay of Tuesday's conference call by Nuveen management. Call 1-888-266-2081 and enter conference access code 1207768. The call replay will be available through March 4, 2008.

Today at 11:00 AM EST, Nuveen is having an earnings conference call. Access to the call will be available via or by dialing (866) 814-8482 or (703) 639-1372 and referencing conference ID number 1201236.

3. Write letters to your local attorney-general and governor. Some are already investigating. Some need to be prodded. But these people need to know that our April 15 tax monies are tied up in these ARPS.

Little Johnny strikes again.
A grade school teacher in Kentucky asked her students to use the word 'fascinate' in a sentence.

Molly put up her hand and said, 'My family went to my granddad's farm, and we all saw his pet sheep it was fascinating.'

The teacher said, 'That was good, but I wanted you to use the word 'fascinate', not 'fascinating'.'

Sally raised her hand. She said, 'My family went to see Rock City and I was fascinated.'

The teacher said, 'Well, that was good Sally, but I wanted you to use the word 'fascinate', not 'fascinated'.

Little Johnny raised his hand.

The teacher hesitated because she had been burned by Little Johnny before. She finally decided there was no way he could damage the word 'fascinate', so she called on him. Johnny said, 'My aunt Gina has a sweater with ten buttons, but her tits are so big she can only fasten eight.'

The teacher sat down and cried.

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.

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