Technology Investor 

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

Previous Columns
8:30 AM EST Thursday, February 8, 2007: Big bets. Little bets: When you're young and have nothing, you take big bets on sure things. When you're old and have something, you take small bets on many sure things. For you're wiser and you know there is no such thing as a "sure" thing. The essence of life is to avoid all those things you feel even 1% uncomfortable with and stay with the 100% comfortable ones. This is a gutsy philosophy for it means you always have to be comfortable that there will always be more good things coming down the road. Trust me on this one. There are always more things coming down the road, even if you have to stay in cash, which is burning a hole in your pocket.

There is an old adage: "When God closes a door, He opens a window." And sometimes He opens that windows amazingly fast -- like minutes -- after He closed the door.

Now you wonder why HBSC bet on deadbeat housing lenders? See below.

25 Fastest-growing Tech Companies: Wall Street pays for growth. Forbes Magazine sets some hurdles for growth and profitability and, out of 2,200 U.S. public technology stocks, picked these 25. I don't own any, but it's an interesting list. These companies have done well and are doing well. To get on the list, you need at least $25 million in sales, 10% annual sales growth for five consecutive years, profitability over the past 12 months and 10% estimated annual profit growth for the next three to five years. Forbes excluded firms with significant legal problems or other open-ended liabilities. Forbes also considered accounting and corporate governance scores from Audit Integrity of Los Angeles in making the final cuts.

Surprise, surprise: HSBC said its subprime-mortgage problem was worse than indicated. "Subprime" is a euphemism for lending to people you have to be certifiably nuts to lend to. From today's Wall Street Journal,

When the U.S. housing market was booming, HSBC Holdings PLC raced to join the party. Sensing opportunity in the bottom end of the mortgage market, the giant British bank bet big on borrowers with sketchy credit records.

Such subprime customers have always been risky, but HSBC figured it could control that risk. In 2005 and 2006, it bought billions of dollars of subprime loans from other lenders, lured by the higher interest rates they carry.

Now, the party is over for HSBC -- and for lots of other bankers who aimed to cash in on the housing boom of the first half of this decade. When interest rates ticked up and the market cooled, HSBC reached a disconcerting conclusion: Its systems for screening subprime borrowers and for assessing the default risk they posed were flawed.

Many of those loans have soured, sometimes quickly. The percentage of HSBC mortgages more than 60 days past due is climbing. Fraud by borrowers has been higher than expected. "We made some decisions that could have been better," says Tom Detelich, the HSBC executive in the U.S. spearheading an effort to clean up the mortgage portfolio.

In a surprise announcement late yesterday, HSBC said its subprime-mortgage problem was worse than previously indicated. It said the capital it sets aside to cover all bad debts, including the soured mortgages, would be 20%, or $1.76 billion, higher than analysts' consensus estimates. "The impact of slowing house price growth is being reflected in accelerated delinquency trends across the U.S. subprime mortgage market, particularly in the more recent loans," the bank said.

HSBC's mortgage woes provide a window into the economic hangover brought on by the end of the housing boom. In recent months, mortgage bankers have taken a place beside home builders, condominium developers and real-estate agents, all of them struggling to adjust to a new housing landscape.

May blastocystis hominis die quickly: Son, Michael, goes to India on business, eats the wrong thing, picks up nasty parasite called blastocystis hominis. He's now on pills large enough to choke a horse. From the Fed government's Center for Disease Control and prevention:

Is medication available to treat blastocystosis?
Yes; drugs are available by prescription to treat blastocystosis; however, sometimes medication is not effective.

How did I get blastocystosis?
It’s hard to say. How Blastocystis is transmitted is unknown, although the number of people infected seems to increase in areas where sanitation and personal hygiene is inadequate.

How long will I be infected?
Blastocystis can remain in the intestines for weeks, months, or years.

How can I prevent infection with Blastocystis?
* Wash hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before handling food.
* Avoid water or food that may be contaminated.
* Wash and peel all raw vegetables and fruits before eating.
* When traveling in countries where the water supply may be unsafe, avoid drinking unboiled tap water and avoid uncooked foods washed with unboiled tap water.
Bottled or canned carbonated beverages, seltzers, pasteurized fruit drinks, and steaming hot coffee and tea are safe to drink.
* If you work in a child care center where you change diapers, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with plenty of soap and warm water after every diaper change, even if you wear gloves.

Fish contains mercury: The safest fish to appear to be catfish, salmon (farmed and ocean) and trout. The rest got too much mercury.

Consensus on Windows Vista: Don't upgrade your existing computer. Wait until you buy a new PC. And then be very careful. Recognize that many of your new peripherals -- especially your older ones -- may not work with Vista. Peripherals include printers and scanners. I speak from sad experience.

Remember the old rule: If it works, don't mess with it -- no matter what the fantastical benefits you may (or may not) achieve, no matter how much Microsoft spends on marketing.

This is the way your kids' school should be:
This is the alleged message that Pacific Palisades High School staff voted unanimously to record on their school telephone answering machine.

"Hello! You have reached the automated answering service of your school. To assist you in connecting to the right staff member, please listen to all the options:

* To lie about why your child is absent - Press 1
* To make excuses for why your child did not do his work- Press 2
* To complain about what we do - Press 3
* To swear at staff members - Press 4
* To ask why you didn't get information that was already enclosed in your newsletter and several flyers mailed to you - Press 5
* If you want us to raise your child - Press 6
* If you want to reach out and touch, slap or hit someone -Press 7
* To request another teacher, for the third time this year -Press 8
* To complain about our buses - Press 9
* To complain about school lunches - Press 0
* If you realize this is the real world and your child must be accountable and responsible for his/her own behavior, class work, homework and that it's not the teachers' fault for your child's lack of effort, hang up and have a nice day!

* If you want this in Spanish, you must be in the wrong country."

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.
Go back.