Technology Investor 

Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor. Previous Columns
8:30 AM Friday, January 14, 2005: My hot stock honchos have gone to cash. They're depressed about the stockmarket's short term future. They believe they'll see more weakness in coming weeks. If you're game for it, trading seems the only way to few scheckels today. It's best to trade on news. Here was Apple (AAPL) yesterday. Big pop in the morning as a result of the news. But the pop was too big. Therefore short it. Buy back later in the day. I did the obvious. I bought early. It went up further. Instead of selling instantly, I ignored it. By the I got back to the screen, saw it falling and sold for a small loss. Lesson: If you trade, you got to stare at the screen while you have open positions.

TiVo has been cratering. Too much competition. But it has subscribers and it's growing. It can't go to zero. Take a guess. I guessed $4. I got 5,000 shares. Now it's up a little. Revenues are down. And earnings suck big time. It's time to take my profits and get out.

AT&T (T) has to go lower. It has no future. No one wants to buy it. And the business it's in -- long distance -- gets worse by the minute. My wife is in Australia at present helping her father. I've been calling her for free every day. How does AT&T compete against free? I sold it short at $18.50. But it's stubbornly staying above that. I'm not worried. This is my long-term, short-term short.

Never ever buy a mutual fund through your broker: I've written that a million times. When I was young and stupid, Morgan Stanley bought me a whole bunch of mutual fund B shares, which locked me into heavy penalties for seven years. They omitted to tell me the "rules" on B shares. Dreyfus did the same thing for my 401(k) plan. If you want further confirmation of my rule about never buying mutual funds through your broker, check out today's Wall Street Journal:

"Edward D. Jones & Co. received $82.4 million in secret payments from seven mutual-fund firms in the first 11 months of 2004, through a lopsided fee structure that in some cases gave the brokerage firm more compensation for selling poorly performing funds than for selling stellar performers.

The disclosures were posted yesterday, on Jones's Web site as required by its $75 million agreement to settle regulatory charges that it failed to adequately disclose the payments to investors. They are by far the most detailed figures ever made public on the industry practice of mutual-fund companies paying brokerage firms to induce them to sell their products, an arrangement known as revenue sharing. Unlike front-end sales commissions, which are widely disclosed to consumers, revenue sharing has been largely secret.

Revenue sharing is legal, but federal and state regulators have argued that the industry's failure to disclose the payments defrauds consumers by hiding brokers' conflicts of interest. Federal regulators allege that the large payments that Edward D. Jones got from its seven preferred mutual-fund families would cause brokers to pick those funds over other fund companies that aren't paying the firm. ...

Edward D. Jones, of St. Louis, has nearly 10,000 sales offices nationally, making it the largest network of brokerage outlets in the U.S. ...

According to Jones's disclosures, the brokerage firm received two types of revenue-sharing payments. One was a one-time payment based on the dollar amount of a particular mutual-fund family's shares sold by Jones's brokers. The other: annual "asset fees" based on the total value of a fund family's assets held by Jones's clients.

By selling one firm's funds over those of another, Jones could in a year's time earn up to three times more in revenue-sharing monies -- and possibly even more in some cases. Those payments, while paid to the firm as a whole, helped determine bonuses paid to individual brokers.

Some of the worst-performing fund families offered Jones the richest incentives to sell their products. For example, Van Kampen Investments, which according to a Morningstar Inc. analysis is one of the poorer performers in Jones's stable, paid a whopping $22.24 per $10,000 of fund shares sold. By contrast, Lord Abbett & Co., one of the top-performing fund groups, didn't make any one-time payments based on sales. Both funds groups paid similar amounts in continuing asset fees. Both firms declined to comment.

That means a Jones broker who sold $1 million in Van Kampen funds last year would net a one-time revenue-sharing payment of $2,224 for the firm, and assuming those assets were held a year and didn't change in value, Jones would get an additional $966 in asset fees. If the same broker sold a Lord Abbett investment under the same conditions, the revenue-sharing payments would be only $1,000. .."

Google Alerts are really great: I love Google Alerts. Try one. Put one in for your favorite stock. Then watch magic. To sign up for this free service, click here.

So how LOW are the airlines' "new"pricing?
They're spending zillions hyping their new, cheaper, easier (no Sat night stays) fares. Are they? I ran pricing this morning on New York to Los Angeles/Long Beach. My conclusion: JetBlue is still the cheapest and the easiest to deal with. I leave Sunday, come back Monday. JetBlue quotes $328 return. American quotes fares from $576 to $916. Delta is $463 and United is $923. In short, the BIG conventional airlines have still got a long way to go before their fares become competitive. Cash your miles in fast. Take a trip. I'm betting some of today's airlines are heading for the trash heap of failed airlines, which include (in my days) Eastern and PanAm.

I found this ad on the Wall Street Journal's site this morning. It's misleading. Maybe they got rid of the Saturday night stay. But their prices are still far too high. I wonder if they'll ever be able to think like a discount airline?

Mark your calendar: February 5 in Phoenix:
I'm speaking before the Arizona Real Estate Investors Association's Conference at the Phoenix Civic Plaza. You can attend my talk for free. Or the whole conference for $119. Click here. I'm talking on "In Search of the Perfect Investment -- Is it Real Estate?" Yesterday, they asked for some words for their newsletter. I wrote:

I’m speaking before your conference at the ungodly hour of 8:30 AM on Saturday, February 5. If can get up that early and can postpone your golf game, you’ll find it fun. Seven years ago I sold my business for cash (no less) and went “In Search of the Perfect Investment.” That search took me from hedge funds to private equity funds, to leveraged buyouts to stock options, to “managed” foreign exchange trading and, in between, some stocks, some bonds, some “professional” money managers and, most recently, real estate.

Along the way I’ve had ecstasy and depression. You don’t want to know what the “education” has cost in dollars and in aggravation. But the result has been serendipitous – at least for you. I’ve figured a bunch of rules for successful investing, which you won’t find in any book – at least not until I write it. And I’ve got lots of stories on how I personally got ripped off – and the lessons I learned from those ghastly experiences. I’ll share them with you at the talk.

One key rule you’ll hear is “Learn to say NO.” Investments I’ve said NO to in the last seven years have “made” me far more money than those I’ve said YES to. There are a bunch I said YES to that I should have said NO to. And I’ve got some rules on them, too -- expensive rules.

I’m also big on due diligence. We don’t do enough of it. Sometimes we get lazy. I got lazy a few too many times and took people at their word. Sadly, most people are as lazy (or as gullible) as I am (or was). Now, I’ve got some rules on doing a “mean” due diligence. I’ll share them with you.

By now, you’ve figured I’m not your “typical” real estate lecturer who pumps the obvious – buy a distressed property, paint the front door, borrow oodles from some unsuspecting bank and sell the property for 50% more the instant the paint on the front door dries and the smell of baking bread wafts from the oven.

I’m like you. I have a little money. I’m not young anymore. I’m 62. I’m probably unemployable. I need to make sure that what I have lasts for my wife and me. I heard that the best “financial planning” is to bounce the check to your undertaker. I’d like the kids to have something. They deserve something after putting up with me for 40-plus years.

When you suddenly get money from selling your business, you get pushed towards Wall Street. They spend big money on advertising. They’re “in your face.” They run the world’s largest gambling machine – also called the stockmarket. Wall Street’s last seven years were like something out of the bible – feasts, famines, plagues, locusts. More crooks and charlatans than you ever imagined. Trillions of dollars evaporated overnight.

Wall Street “prints” money. One day a company has ten million shares. The next day, the directors vote themselves a million more shares. They have a reason or an excuse. They say they’ve done “good work” -- their own definition. The next day there are 11 million shares, but the same company. Meantime, yours and my shares in the company just got 10% less valuable.

You can’t “print” real estate. That’s one of its endearing qualities. It exists because it exists. It’s pure zen. It’s unique. Next door is not identical to next door. New York is not Phoenix. And Phoenix is not New York (for which Phoenix should be eternally grateful).

I came to real estate early and late in life. I bought my first New York apartment for $55,000 and sold it 30-years later for $3.8 million. I bought my second one for my son in college and sold it three years later for a 30% profit – which didn’t include the rent from roommates.

Since then I’ve invested – fancy word for “put my money” --- in real estate syndications and lending on California trust deeds. My syndications (fancy word for partnerships) cover everything from office buildings in Washington, D.C. to shopping centers in Rhode Island. I own a little of each property. Other investors own the rest. The syndicator buys it, finances it, fixes it up, upgrades the tenancy, runs it, refinances it and/or sells it.

These syndications start by paying 8% to 10% and then go up as they improve the buildings. Lately, some syndicators have found that real estate craziness and the weakness of the U.S. dollar means that it’s become time to sell some properties – even those they planned on holding for several years. I put $200,000 into one and got $303,000 back in less than two years – from March of 2003 to end-November of 2004.

These days I’ve discovered something even better. I’m working with Andrew Waite and his great team on the magazine Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine. We’re focusing on of one of the hottest markets in the U.S. – the southwestern part of the U.S. The demographics are incredible – everyone wants to live and work here. There are wonderful opportunities for normal homes, for vacation homes, for office buildings, for shopping centers. A perfect place to invest.

If you don’t have a copy of our magazine, go to your favorite local bookstore or pick one up at the conference. You can subscribe on our web site – – for the grand sum of $24.95 a year. I promise you if you don’t learn enough to make yourself 100 times your subscription money, I’ll personally give you your money back and you can keep the magazines.

Heh. Cool it Harry. You’re sounding too much like a huckster. Sorry about that. Suffice, I’m a lucky fellow, who sold a business, learned some rules about investing and then discovered real estate. Meet me in Phoenix on Saturday February 5. Tell me your experiences. We’ll all learn something. Get yourself a copy of the latest issue of our super magazine.

The story of the Good Samaritan
A Sunday school teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan, in which a man was beaten, robbed and left for dead.
She described the situation in vivid detail so her students would catch the drama.
Then, she asked the class, "If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?"
A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, "I think I'd throw up."

The story of Elijah
The Sunday school teacher was carefully explaining the story of Elijah the Prophet and the false prophets of Baal. She explained
how Elijah built the altar, put wood upon it, cut the steer in pieces, and laid it upon the altar.

And then, Elijah commanded the people of God to fill four barrels of water and pour it over the altar. He had them do this four times.

"Now," said the teacher! , "can anyone in the class tell me why the Lord would have Elijah pour water over the steer on the altar?"

A little girl in the back of the room started waving her hand, "I know, I know," she said, "to make the gravy!"

Lot's Wife
The Sunday School teacher was describing how Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt, when little Johnny
interrupted, "My Mummy looked back once, while she was DRIVING," he announced triumphantly, "and she turned into a telephone pole!"

Higher Power
A Sunday school teacher said to her children, "We have been learning how powerful kings and queens were in Bible times. But, there is a higher power. Can anybody tell me what it is?"

One child blurted out, "Aces!"

Sunday School
Nine year old Joey, was asked by his mother what he had learned in Sunday school.

"Well, Mom, our teacher told us how God sent Moses behind enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea, he had his engineers build a pontoon bridge and all the people walked across safely. Then, he used his walkie-talkie to radio headquarters for reinforcements. They sent bombers to blow up the bridge and all the Israelites were saved."

"Now, Joey, is that really what your teacher taught you?" his mother asked.

"Well, no, Mom. But, if I told it the way the teacher did, you'd never believe it!"

Markets are closed on Monday. I need to spend the weekend writing.

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.
Go back.