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Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor. Previous Columns
8:30 AM Friday, March 4, 2005: Spent three hours last night listening to a pitch for "managed futures," which turns out to be a fancy name for writing put and call options -- the S&P 500 being a prime target. If you think the market will be flat, you write put and call options. If you think the market will fall, you write more call options, and vice versa. The S&P 500 doesn't usually move much within the short period options have a life. So it seems to be pretty good business.
The company's results are pretty good, too:
2004 + 32%
2003 + 66%
2002 + 71%
2001 +102%
They had five losing months in the past 40 they've been doing this business. The worst was down 7.78%.

There are two types of buyers for options -- dumb speculators and mutual funds who buy put options to hedge against their long positions. About 80% options bought -- either put or call -- end up valueless. So the chance of your making money on writing them seems to make sense.

TriPath Imaging (TPTH) languishes: My recent research shows:
+ Few analysts covering it. Company is working on convincing more.
+ Earnings are seriously improving.
Good earnings are coming..
+ More news coming soon of more contracts.
Several large holders genuinely believe stock should be $30 in a year or so. I'm still holding.

Wrong square footage saves homebuyer $16,000: Joe Hoye read the latest issue of our Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine in which we warned about houses being peddled with inflated (i.e. wrong) square footage. Joe had fallen in love with a 2,000 square foot home. He was in the process of buying his dream house when he read our brilliant article, measured his house and found the habitable space fell nearly 600 square feet short of what the sales sheet said. The error had apparently started with inaccurate tax records. Fortunately the deal had not closed. The solution was simple: Either walk or renegotiate to a realistic number. Surprised and embarrassed by the square footage shortfall, the sell and buy side realtors convinced the seller of the impracticality of his sales number. Joe offered $19,000 less and settled on $16,000. Apparently this issue of inflated square footage numbers is quite common. For more on the magazine, click here or click on the button on the left.

The best site to get satellite images of land. Used by commercial realtors nationwide. Click here.

My credit card expired: In fact, it expires every three years. It's really annoying because all the vendors who have my card on file suddenly freak out. I have asked Citigroup/Visa for a "permanent" credit card with a 50-year expiration date but that freaks them out even more. The reason for the three-year expiration is that plastic credit cards physically wear out and don't work after three years. But that was before the days of credit card billing. Does anyone have a solution? is gaining momentum: More and more readers are posting comments on why the incompetent Carly Fiorina should not be made president of the World Bank. Tell your friends about Tell them to tell their friends. This is important.

Nice to have a mayor who thinks like a businessman. NEW YORK (AP)--The art installation "The Gates" created an economic boom similar to the Christmas season, with New York City discovering a $254 million economic boost tucked beneath the saffron fabric decorating Central Park, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday. Hot dog vendors, horse-drawn carriage drivers and restaurateurs joined Bloomberg in praising the ripples of cash created by the billowing $21 million public art project, which didn't cost the city a penny to create.
The city estimated that "The Gates" drew an estimated four million visitors to Central Park, including 1.5 million out-of-towners, between Feb. 12-27. In midtown, hotel occupancy was 87% over that period compared with 73% last February; overall, the project generated $254 million in economic activity.
But Bloomberg noted that many of the 7,503 gates will be still standing in the park, giving visitors another chance to check out "The Gates" this weekend.

Dreyfus mutual funds truly stink: Arguing with them is about as easy as finding a semi-decent fund they run. I found one (only one) -- the Small Cap Value fund -- and switched my 401(K) into it. The symbol is DSVBX -- that's the symbol for the B shares, if you're stupid like me and are still stuck.

Yesterday I wrote oil is going to $62: And it rose strongly during yesterday's trading. To repeat my reasoning, There's too much demand around, not enough supply. An expert wrote me "If there is anything consistent about the forecasters it is their ability to "revise" their forecasts on a quarterly if not sometime monthly basis. The other amazing ability that all of them have since the beginning of "forecasting" is to underestimate demand and overestimate supply - I have been in this business for over 40 years and it has never changed. You have to wonder when such smart people will realize this. My tech guys see prices possibly going to 62 dollars for WTI crude within the next 30 days --- we don't say it is going to stay there but just the fact that indicators point to it hitting this number is a little scary."

There's a hedge fund called The Newton Fund. I don't have anything to do with it. What I found cute is that the way the Newton Fund describes itself. See if you can figure out what it does: "The Newton Fund seeks high returns with limited risk using a statistical tactical asset allocation system. Employing our CAPM expected return model, yield spread, momentum, volume, volatility, growth rate, and valuation oscillator work, the Newton Fund allocates its capital between S&P futures/equities and short term debt instruments to maximize long term returns with calculated risk."

Stumped? That makes two of us. Us and them. If you have invested $1000 back in 1998 you would now have the grand sum of $810.83 -- which ranks as totally awful performance. I think I should sue them to remove my valuable name.

Newton Fund, LP
2005 (to date)

Confirming what I already knew about fancy TVs: Writes The New York Times' Eric Taub, "In fact, many people in the television industry acknowledge that the standard-definition image quality produced by a picture tube remains superior to the newer flat panels. Unlike L.C.D. televisions, tube sets do not suffer from image lag, the smearing of rapidly moving images on the screen. Nor are they prone to image burn-in, as has plagued some plasma screens. ''Video purists love a good cathode-ray-tube TV,'' said Jim Sanduski, vice president of marketing for Samsung's visual display products group.

Picture-tube TV's can also reproduce a wider range of colors than L.C.D. sets. And when transmitting poor quality images, tube televisions are more forgiving. Standard-definition television, which still makes up the bulk of television broadcasts, often looks worse on costly digital L.C.D. and plasma flat-panel televisions. Circuitry in these TV's attempts to improve the image quality by doubling the scanning lines. But if the image has a lot of imperfections, it doubles those as well. ''In today's environment, a C.R.T. television is the best all-around product,'' said Dave Arland, vice president of Thomson, the company that owns the RCA brand.

A free $50, 72 ounce steak -- if you can eat it in an hour: In Amarillo, Texas, there is a steak house on US Route 40, which advertises a free 72 oz steak if you can finish it. The moral of his story is there's always a way to make your business special if you think hard enough:

Here are the house rules on the 72oz. Steak:
Rule # 1 is to have fun. We really want you to win! The $50 dinner consist of a baked potato, salad, shrimp cocktail, roll, and a 72-ounce top sirloin steak. You must sit at the designated table in our dining room. You may not leave the table for any reason once the contest starts. No one may assist you in any way (such as cutting up your meal). You must complete the dinner in 1 hour (if you can't do the meal in an hour, you ain't going get it done in 2 hours anyway). You may not share your meal even if you don't complete the dinner (like take it back to your table to be shared by any folks you may have invited to cheer you on).

If you get sick (its been know to happen) the contest is over, period. You can order the steak cooked anyway you want. We will allow you a sample bite (small) prior to the start of the timer to make sure it is cooked to your satisfaction and the taste meets with your approval. Then we start the timer for one hour. You don't have to eat the fat or gristle (if you can find any), but we must judge this. Again, we want you to win but we do know our meats and will judge accordingly. The steak isn't offered on our menu as a dinner, but we will allow the steak to be ordered for $200 for two guests. It takes us a little more than a half an hour to cook the steak and it is available 365 days a year from 8:00am to 9:30pm. Enough with the rules! Refer to rule #1 - HAVE FUN!

72oz. Steak Facts and Stats
* Nearly 6,200 people have succeeded in eating the 72oz. steak (since 1960).
* Almost 37,000 people have attempted to consume the free 72oz. steak (since 1960).
* Approximately two women each year successfully eat the steak of the 4 or 5 who try.
* Richard LaFeare chomped his way through 2 steaks on the "Donny & Marie Osmond Show" in 2000.
* Frank Pastore, who was a professional pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, ate the complete steak dinner in 9 and 1/2 minutes.
* The oldest person to eat the steak was a 69-year-old grandmother; the youngest, an 11-year old boy.
* Klondike Bill, a professional wrestler, consumed two complete dinners in the one hour time limit back in the 1960s.

For more on the restaurant,
Click here.

The polish sausage:
The joke is not P.C. (politically correct.)
A man goes into a store and asks the clerk for some Polish Sausage.

The clerk looked at him and asked,"Are you Polish?"

The guy, clearly offended, says, "Well, yes I am. But let me ask you something. If I asked you for Italian Sausage, would you ask me if I was Italian? Or, if I asked for German Bratwurst, would you ask me if I was German? Or if I asked you for a Kosher Hot Dog, would you ask me if I was Jewish? Or, if I asked you for a Taco, would you ask me if I was Mexican?
Would ya, huh? Would ya?"

The clerk says, "Well no."

"And if I asked you for some Irish Whiskey, would you ask me if I was Irish?

What about Canadian Bacon, would you ask me if I was Canadian?"

"Well, I probably wouldn't."

With self-indignation, the guy says, "Well, all right then, why did you ask me if I'm Polish just because I asked for Polish Sausage?"

The clerk replies, "Because you're at Home Depot.

Understanding Engineers - Take One.
As you read these three, please think of your computer and its nuttiness.

Two engineering students were walking across the campus when one said, "Where did you get such a great bike?"

The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike.

She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, "Take what you want."

The second engineer nodded approvingly, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit."

Understanding Engineers - Take Two
To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.

To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Understanding Engineers - Take Three
Normal people ... believe that if it isn't broken, don't fix it. Engineers believe that if it isn't broken, it doesn't have enough features yet.

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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