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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 Friday, February 3, 2006: The stockmarket cratered yesterday on fears. I don't know which specific fears. Nobody does. But they seem to relate to ebbing consumer spending and the economy's slowing down in the last quarter:

I don't buy any of it. The economy is doing just fine. And BusinessWeek, this weekend, agrees with me:

BusinessWeek says our government's numbers, which are pointing to economic malaise, are all screwed up. Says BusinessWeek:

What if we told you that businesses are investing about $1 trillion a year more than the official numbers show? Or that the savings rate, far from being negative, is actually positive? Or, for that matter, that our deficit with the rest of the world is much smaller than advertised, and that gross domestic product may be growing faster than the latest gloomy numbers show? You'd be pretty surprised, wouldn't you?

Well, don't be. Because the economy you thought you knew -- the one all those government statistics purport to measure and make rational and understandable -- actually may be on a stronger footing than you think...

The statistical wizards at the Bureau of Economic Analysis in Washington can whip up a spreadsheet showing how much the railroads spend on furniture ($39 million in 2004, to be exact). But they have no way of tracking the billions of dollars companies spend each year on innovation and product design, brand-building, employee training, or any of the other intangible investments required to compete in today's global economy. That means that the resources put into creating such world-beating innovations as the anticancer drug Avastin, inhaled insulin, Starbuck's (SBUX ), exchange-traded funds, and yes, even the iPod, don't show up in the official numbers. ...

According to BusinessWeek's calculations, the top 10 biggest U.S. corporations that report their R&D outlays -- a list that includes ExxonMobil (XOM ), Procter & Gamble (PG ), General Electric (GE ), Microsoft (MSFT ), and Intel (INTC ) -- have boosted R&D spending by 42%, or almost $11 billion, since 2000. Yet over the same period, they have only increased capital spending by a meager 2%, or less than $1 billion. So all together, these giants have actually increased their future-oriented investment by roughly $12 billion -- most of which doesn't show up in the BEA (government's) numbers.

For BusinessWeek's entire article, click here.

Something is going on with China stocks.
A lot are going up. This is what happened yesterday in a terrible market. And it's happening again this morning, pre-opening. This is a list of every stock I could find with "China" in its name. I'm guessing most have to do with China, the country, not china, the porcelain.

Ormat Technologies (ORA) is an alternative energy play: We've missed the big run:

But, unlike most alternative energy companies, this one is profitable, is growing and makes sense businesswise, namely:
+ Its geothermal plants can operate 24 hours a day, unlike wind or solar.
+ It designs, builds, installs and runs its own plants.
I can see another ten points on this stock. Cramer mentioned them last night, also.

Some special kind of GM madness: If you were GM management, would you spend $100 million to build a plant in South Africa to build Hummers? I continue to believe that GM is a great short. But, so far, I've been proven wrong. (The South African Hummer plant opens later this year.)

Some special kind of NYTimes madness: If you were the NYTimes management and your sales were declining, would you raise your prices by 25%? I wonder how many more people will find they can do without the New York Times, now it's $40 a month for home delivery.

We learn something new about fluorescents:

This is the screw-in fluorescent bulb I waxed enthusiastically yesterday about. Items:

+ It comes on immediately. No flickering delay like a normal fluorescent.
+ It gives off a nice warm light, not green.
+ You can't tell if it's a fluorescent if it's behind a frosted glass cover.
+ It saves an enormous amount of energy -- using 15 watts for a 60 watt bulb -- and lasts forever (7 years+).

I've learned one more thing, courtesy reader Chris Dann, "While the fluorescent lights do come on right away, they are not very bright when they first come on. After a few minutes, they are as bright or brighter than the incandescent bulbs." He's 100% right. I figure about ten minutes.

Conclusion: You should be ashamed of your waste if you're still using incandescent bulbs -- except those on dimmers, which themselves are a huge waste of electricity and money.

Moantones is mindblowing. I forget to mention. Selling moan tones for cell phones, et al, is a $150 million a year business!!! I don't make this stuff up.

My latest and now favorite bicycle:
I get around New York City on a bicycle. It's faster than taxis, subways and buses. It's also healthier. I like folding bicycles because they're small and you can get them into many buildings -- unfolded or folded. This one is called a Dahon Helios SL (as in super light). It weighs about 17 pounds -- about as light as many professional racing bikes.

The Dahon Helios SL -- $800+. For the full specs, click here. The Helios SL, folded. It slides easily into the trunk of a car or a suitcase for taking on a trip.

Ride with a helmet. If it's raining, be wary of metal plates and grates, and anything painted on the road -- like pedestrian crossings. These things get real slippery.

The organist's logic
Miss Beatrice, the church organist, was in her eighties and had never been married. She was admired for sweetness and kindness to all. One afternoon the pastor came to call on her and she showed him into her quaint sitting room. She invited him to have a seat while she prepared tea. As he sat facing her old pump organ, the young minister noticed a cut-glass bowl sitting on top of it. The bowl was filled with
water. In the water floated, of all things, a condom!

When she returned with tea and scones, they began to chat. The pastor tried to stifle his curiosity about the bowl of water and its strange floater, but soon it got the better of him and he could no longer resist. "Miss Beatrice", he said, "I wonder if you would tell me about this?" pointing to the bowl.

"Oh, yes" she replied, "isn't it wonderful? I was walking through the park a few months ago and I found this little Package on the ground. The directions said to place it on the organ, keep it wet and that it would prevent the spread of disease. Do you know I haven't had the flu all winter!".

The pastor fainted.

Recent column highlights:
+ Munich, the movie. A must-see. Click here.
+ Identity Theft precautions. Click here.
+ Dumb reasons we hold losing stocks. Click here.
+ How my private equity fund is doing. Click here.
+ Blackstone private equity funds. Click here.
+ Manhattan Pharmaceuticals: Click here.
+ NovaDel Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ Hana Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ All turned on by biotech. Click here.
+ Steve Jobs Commencement Address. The text is available: Click here. The full audio is available. Click here.
+ The March of the Penguins, an exquisite movie. Click here.
+ When to sell stocks. Click here.

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. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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