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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 EST Monday, November 13, 2006: The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) went public in 2002. Since then....

Three securities exchanges have gone public this year: The Chicago Board of Trade, the International Securities Exchange (ISE), and recently the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). In mid-October, the Chicago Board of Trade merged with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), creating what it called a "$25 billion premier global derivatives exchange."

The ISE trades stock options. The ICE trades energy contracts. The Merc features Eurodollar futures. Each has been a success story. The Merc went public at $35 a share and is now trading at $495. The ISE, is up nearly double since a debut in March of this year. ICE opened at $26 a share and climbed to $40 on its opening day.

These exchanges are on a tear for four reasons:
1. Exchanges are run very differently once they de-mutualized. The NYSE has been on a tear, merging and acquiring everybody and their uncle, most recently Euronext and before that Archipelago, and the Pacific Exchange. It just announced it's firing 500 people. Imagine doing that in the old days of member-run old boy's club.
2. The exchanges have a privileged regulatory position, giving them serious pricing power in their markets.
3. These exchange help satisfy the insatiable need for more gambling arenas for the new gamblers, also called hedge funds.
4. No one (well, hardly anyone) is selling their shares. Everyone is holding them for their grandchildren. They're the perfect keeper stock.

They are all, of course, ridiculously expensive. Compare the low with the high to see how these are moving nicely.

The Exchanges Take Off
Latest price
1-year low
1-year high
Price/Earnings Ratio

Market capitalization

Chicago Board of Trade (merged with CME)            
Chicago Mercantile Exchange
Intercontinental Exchange
International Securities Exchange
Nasdaq Stock Market
NYSE Group

InSite Vision's conference call is tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM EST: InSite has FDA approval, but needs a big pharma marketing partner. It promised it would have one in July. But it didn't. And its stock has slipped. We'll hear the whole story in a conference call with CEO Kumar Chandrasekaran -- (877) 407-0778 or (201) 689-8565, account number 286 and conference ID 219889. A telephone replay will be available for 48 hours following by dialing (877) 660-6853 or (201) 612-7415, account number 286 and conference ID 219889.

Ziopharm has three promising drugs for cancer treatment: Note I said treatment, not cure. The thinking is to make cancer manageable, like diabetes. People who have diabetes can live with it if they take their medication and watch the way they live. Ditto for cancer -- the goal is longer, better life (fewer side affects from the drug), with especial emphasis on easier oral taking of your medicine -- versus today's schlepp-to-clinic, wait, wait, wait, get injection, go home, waste time.

Ziopharm has several things going for it:
1. Three promising drugs. All are just beginning their lengthy FDA approval-seeking regimen.
2. A very low market capitalization -- $78 million. Note million, not billion. That means if one of these drugs hits, the stock can move nicely.
3. A motivated, talented management team. Their motivation is twofold -- good medicine, good investor relations.

Ziopharm is holding an "Analysts Day" this Friday morning at New York's Yale Club. That exposure typically helps. One Wall Street firm -- Griffin Securities -- is already out with a "buy," with a 12-month price target of $18 (it's now $5.10). Griffin's recommendation was made before Ziopharm acquired its third drug.

To me, Ziopharm is a five-year lock-up. A small investment today will either be worth millions in five years, or the company will be broke. The odds are tilting towards the millions.

Should you install Microsoft Vista on your present PC? The simple answer is NO. You should wait until you buy a PC (desktop or laptop) that's got it installed. That way you'll get hardware drivers that were written for, tested and, hopefully, work with Vista. The computer press is universally agreed that there's no "gotta-have-it" feature in Vista. A lot of the new features are already handled by third-party software or stuff that Microsoft itself puts out covertly called PowerToys for Windows XP. My favorite PowerToys is an Alt-Tab replacement called Taskswitch.exe. I use it every day. Download it from here. Click here.

Vista's BIG advance is in graphics and movie-making. If you're into heavy graphics and movie-making, you're far better off with an Apple.

When your printer starts jamming: When it starts bending sheets, picking up multiple sheets and jamming sheets in the feeder mechanism, it's time for a visit to www. There you'll buy a "printer repair kit" for your printer. What you'll get in the mail in a few days is something called a separations pad. Every printer has this little thing. Its job is to stop the printer picking up more than one sheet of paper at a a time.

I bought a "kit." It took me three minutes to install it. Bingo my problem went away. I thought I needed to clean the rollers where the paper was jamming. I thought I needed to use different paper. Wrong! The rollers will last for years. But the separations pad won't. It wears out. Trust me, you need a new one every few years. Replacing it yourself is a lot easier than schlepping your heavy machine to some distant repair show, waiting a week and then schlepping it home again. The printer repair kit for my printer cost $20. It was worth ten times that in aggravation avoided.

What do I do with short-term money? My preference today is to hold a little more cash. I live in New York City, where taxes give extortion a whole new meaning. My preferred vehicle to date has been triple tax-free municipal floaters. They're paying today around 3.25% -- which is ironically what my checking account is paying pre-tax. My latest bank (Sovereign) is paying 5.20% on a one-week CD. That means I can get my money out each Thursday. That's a very nice rate. I bet your bank has something similar.

The reality TV show
CBS has announced it is working on a new reality series called "Jewish Survivor."

Here's the premise: 16 Jews are put in a two-bedroom co-op on the Upper West Side of New York. Each week they vote out one member, until there is a final survivor who gets $10 million (but placed into a trust that does not vest until age 59).

The Rules:

1. No cleaning lady.

2. No use of ATMs or credit cards.

3. No food from take-out or delivery which specifically includes Chinese food.

4. All purchases must be at full retail prices.

5. Women may not call their mother, men may not call their office.

6. Outside trips must be by foot, bus or subway. No limos, Town Cars or cabs.

7. All workouts and exercise must be done in their apartment with no workout machines.

8. Whole Foods is off limits.

9. No NY Times or Wall Street Journal is allowed for reading. Only the NY Post and NY Daily News are acceptable.

10. Only one phone line for all 16 members. No call can last more than three minutes. No cell phones.

11. Maintenance problems must be resolved by the members, without help from the super or any other gentile.

12. All therapy sessions must be suspended.

13. No calls to attorneys.

14. No Valium, no antacids.

So far, there have been NO applicants.

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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