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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Technology Investor. Auction Rate Securities. Auction Rate Preferreds.

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8.:30 AM EST Tuesday, May 6, 2008: I said oil was going to $100. Now I say it's going to $200.
You don't have to become an oil guru to recognize five factors:

1. As China and India (and others) get richer and get cars, they use more oil. Ditto for us and our idiotic love affair with the SUV, the Escalade and the Suburban and the Expedition.

2. Old Oil is running out. New oil is in hard to reach, is in politically unstable places and/or both.

3. OPEC's president, Chakib Khelil ""does not rule out oil prices reaching $200 a barrel, even though supply is adequate, because the market is driven by the dollar's slide." See. Sleepwalking toward the oil precipice.

4. The Fed. By driving down interest rates, our Fed is driving up the price of food, commodities, minerals and oil. For more on this, see a piece from this week's Economist called Ben's Bind.

5. There's little left for hedge funds to gamble on. The stockmarket sucks. (That's a technical term.)

There are three easy ways to play oil. They're the ETFs:

1. OIL -- straight oil price. It's called the iPath Goldman Sachs Crude Oil Total Return Index ETN.

2. OIH -- oil service providers.

3. IYE -- oil companies and service stocks. This ETF mimics the Dow Jones U.S. Energy sector.

Yesterday, my favorite oil guru, Jim Kingsale, who writes Energy Investment Strategies, posted a big important piece. Excerpts:

Oil’s Surprise Party: Who Was There

The game plan was that the Fed was done and the economy seemed suddenly not so weak so the dollar would continue to strengthen. Plus the Saudi’s are bringing on their last big new fields this year and next. Plus oil demand growth is slowing all over except among the oil exporting countries. Plus oil tried to bust $120 for a while and failed after a long and strong rise. So clearly the fundamentals and the technicals are aligned to say that oil is headed for a correction. Right?

And right on schedule oil headed down for a test of $110, which held. It seemed like everyone was following the script, but then things went kaplooey. What’s happened? Well, there are a number of suspects who might resolve this mystery.

1. The dollar stopped getting stronger. That might be partly because a number of analysts over the weekend explained that last weeks’ miraculous Q1 GDP number up .6% annualized was, like a lot of miracles, a bit questionable. It depended importantly on the assumed inflation rate on which the government might have been a tad optimistic, thus reporting stronger GDP than may actually be the case. Furthermore, last week’s report of only a small loss of jobs last month - 20,000 - was also a function of an assumption, this time something called the birth/death number that relates to smaller businesses. Their birth/death assumption turns out to be highly questionable and it resulted in a jobs report that may have been vastly off base. So, bottom line, the economy may be a lot weaker than the reports had caused the stock and futures markets to assume it was. Today, those markets corrected taking the dollar down and gold and oil up.

2. Things are getting worse in Nigeria, aggravating recent oil supply problems caused by the British strike and previous Nigerian supply disruptions. I cannot accurately describe what is happening in Nigeria. I’m not sure many people really know. A comprehensive report on the Nigerian oil situation in April’s Petroleum Review titled, “Risky Business” is the stuff of movie scripts - think Casablanca. It seems the authorities are involved in the crimes. The report says that when a kidnapping occurs, a fairly regular event,

“It tends to be the norm that SSS - the state security service responsible for intelligence within the country - already knows who the perpetrators are and in what circumstances the hostages are being held.”

Moreover, MEND, the militarily sophisticated rebel group that is supposedly seeking social justice, has become more efficient. They have warned that during their attacks on the oil infrastructure, if any security guard returns their fire he will be killed. The result is that the guards flee when MEND arrives. There is little or no effective security for the oil infrastructure now. MEND (which may be short for “mendacious”) recently vowed to shut down the entire oil export business. I doubt that would happen because MEND needs the oil companies to be producing oil so that MEND can steal it. Still, Nigeria used to supply 2.3 million b/d and now they are down a lot. I’m not sure how much, but the direction seems to be south.

3. It is starting to appear that the Saudi’s are saving whatever spare capacity they may have in case there is a true global emergency. Thus, they seem not to have additional spare capacity to simply make up for ordinary supply disruptions such as Nigeria and Bournemouth. Perhaps when KSA brings on its new fields sometime later this year and next they will be more capable of bringing discipline to the oil markets, but at this point they seem to have lost any pricing power on the upside.

4. It is also starting to seem that the Bushies are increasingly serious about reducing the Iranian military involvement in Iraq. They frequently refer to a “price that must be paid” by the Iranians for interference. Clearly they are now pushing to put out new carrots. But it feels like they know the carrots will be rejected and they just want to get the gesture out of the way to clear the field for other actions. What sort? I would guess there could be limited strategic bombings of munitions factories and like targets.

A military strike against Iran could well bring chaos to the oil markets. No doubt that would bring on whatever reserves KSA has, plus there would likely be releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the U.S. and other countries. Still, the possibility of a Bush military strike against Iran is a growing threat to anyone short of oil.

5. Which brings me to a major participant in the surprise oil rally: short covering. It appears that all the reasons advanced above for oil to fall had attracted a significant number of shorts to the oil market. Apparently, there was a mass exodus of the shorts from the oil market Friday and today, as oil topped $120.

We are living in interesting times.

If they can't manage their own business, how can they manage your money? From today's Bloomberg:

May 6 (Bloomberg) -- UBS AG, battered by $17.3 billion of first-quarter losses at its investment-banking unit, plans to cut 5,500 jobs. ...

"The bank's reputation is tarnished,'' said Dieter Winet, a senior portfolio manager who helps oversee 63 billion francs at Swisscanto Asset Management in Zurich. ...

The job cuts are on top of 48,000 reductions announced by the world's biggest banks and securities firms in the past year, as writedowns and losses from the U.S. subprime crisis swelled to $319 billion. ...

New York-based Citigroup Inc., which has suffered almost $41 billion in writedowns and losses from the subprime crisis, cut about 15,200 jobs and Merrill Lynch & Co. reduced 5,220 positions. Investment banks may have to eliminate as much as 35 percent of employees as leveraged lending dwindles and the pace of mergers and acquisitions slows, Kenneth Moelis, the former president of UBS's investment bank, forecast last month.

Don't buy a computer with Windows Vista: My 89-year old friend complained bitterly on the weekend about his new Vista-loaded laptop. He said it locked up frequently, was as slow as molasses and was cumbersome to use . In short, he hated it. What could I do to "downgrade" him to Windows XP? This is an old story. I repeat it again in case you missed my warnings: Do not buy a computer loaded with Vista. End of story.

Should you buy an expensive SLR digital? There are three reasons:

1. It doesn't have "shutter lag." You catch the Kodak moment.
2. It can use bounce flash. And that's 1000% better than direct-on flash -- your only option in point-and-shoots.
3. Your friends will be impressed with your wallet and fortitude. SLRs and their lenses are heavy.

There are four reasons not to buy one:

1. New point and shoots are simply incredible. High pixels and increasingly short shutter lag. If I presented you two I defy you to pick which picture
2. They fit in your pocket. You can take them everywhere. You don't have to think about taking them.

3. You'll leave the SLR in the closet more than you ever imagined. I speak from experience.
4. Bounce flash is pricey. I spent $900 on a powerful strobe and a huge, heavy external battery to power it.

More on Lyme Disease: From reader David Troen-Krasnow:

I thought that was you that had talked often about Lyme disease...I wish I had remembered more.

This past summer, while on Cape Cod my wife woke with a bite...swelling in her face and a headache...after spending the morning trying to sleep it off...she called her Physician who told her to go to the ER. She spent 8 hours at the ER, CAT scans, etc....follow up MRIs.

She has trouble remembering words, she says. It scares her and has her Dr. do more tests...more MRIs etc.

A few weeks back...swelling in her face, numbness. I trip to the BI in Boston. MRI/CAT overnight stay....they want pictures of her to make sure her smile isn't droopy...(by the way, she's 44). They tell her its high cholesterol (based on a non fasted test...)

A few days after the hospital stay she takes the kids to the pediatrician...she's still not feeling 100% and Dr. notices...they talk and the first thing he asks..."been tested for Lyme?"....wife's calls her Dr. and does another blood test. Tests positive. Has a visit with the an infectious disease specialist Thursday. We love this practice. I'm not surprised they caught it.

What's scary is two ERs never even looked for it, neither did her primary. When both incidents occurred we were with my folks, both pharmacists (and dad is working on a masters in Pain Management...he'll be 70 when he graduates) one thought about it.

The fact that its gone on for almost a year is concerning...but it least we know what it is now.

The female deer tick, enlarged many times.

From the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:

About deer ticks:

Deer ticks are also referred to as black-legged ticks or seed ticks. As the primary transmitters of Lyme disease, they are ectoparasites (external parasites). They eat the blood of animals, primarily deer and cattle. They are not able to jump onto animals but rather must transfer from plant to host by the host brushing up against the plant. They are generally found along forest paths and trails. Two natural forms of tick control are the Ichneumon wasp and Guineafowl. The two-year life cycle consists of the larva, nymph, and adult stages. When in the immature stages, they feed on rodents, which is where the tick acquires the spirochete that causes Lyme disease (see Deer Ticks Control in Wisconsin). Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and skin rash.

There's more on Lyme Disease in yesterday's column. We are now entering prime Lyme Disease season. Please be careful.

The difference between men and women.

If Laura, Kate and Sarah go out for lunch, they will call each other Laura, Kate and Sarah .
If Mike, Dave and John go out, they will affectionately refer to each other as Fat Boy, Godzilla and Four-eyes.

When the bill arrives, Mike, Dave and John will each throw in $20, even though it's only for $32.50.
When the girls get their bill, out come the pocket calculators.

A man has six items in his bathroom: toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, a bar of soap, and a towel.
The average number of items in the typical woman's bathroom is 337.
A man cannot identify more than 20 of these items.

A woman has the last word in any argument.
Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.

A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.
A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.

A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
A successful woman is one who can find such a man.

A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.
A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, but she does.

A woman will dress up to go shopping, water the plants, empty the bins, answer the phone, read a book, and get the post.
A man will dress up for weddings and funerals.

A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist appointments and romances, best friends, favorite foods, secret fears and hopes and dreams.
A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house.

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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