Technology Investor 

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 Thursday, October 12, 2006: Great news. Bank of America is offering free stock trades to anyone who has $25,000 in a checking, savings or money market account at the bank. Tough sledding for the online brokers yesterday. TD Ameritrade fell 12%, E-Trade slid 9%, and Schwab lost 5%.

Bank of America hopes the free trades will lure customers to the bank and its other services, says spokesman John Yiannacopoulos. "Our clients tell us they prefer to have their accounts in one place," he says. (And boy, is he right!)

New company, is offering free trades to anyone with a $2,500 account. Zecco CEO Jeroen Veth, says typically brokers pay just $2 to put a trade through. He says that cost is easily made up in other ways, such as collecting interest on cash in customer accounts or providing fee services, such as options trading.

This morning my broker called me in a panic. Nice to see him panicking. Not a profession I'd want to be in any longer. What should he be doing, he asked?

+ Tying his clients' needs together -- from banking, to lending, to brokerage, to money management, etc.
+ Actively finding investment alternatives -- in other words doing a better job searching for the perfect investment than I do.
+ Finding decent private equity funds from the likes of Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.
+ Finding decent hedge funds, like Modern Capital.
+ Finding decent mutual funds, like Vanguard and others.
+ Finding decent money managers, like Snow Capital.
+ Finding real estate opportunities, like Broadway Partners and Scripps Investments and Loans.
+ Keeping track of all the "finds" and reporting on those finds regularly to their clients.

In other words, it's time the brokerage industry stopped peddling the stock du jour and morphed into serious long-term money management. Brokers need to pump out regular useful material to their clients, reporting on their "finds." They should stop pumping out obtuse stupid crap from their in-house economist predicting the next recession, the next interest rate move, or next week's oil price, something else that's unpredictable.

Three of my Vanguard funds shine. My investments:
+ Vanguard International Value Fund (VLTRIX), up 13.1%
+Vanguard Mid-CAp Index Fund Admiral Shares (VIMAX), up 12.8%.
+Total International Stock Index (VGTSX), up 9%.
Two other Vanguard funds I own are doing poorly:
+ Emerging Markets Stock Index (VEIEX), up 3%
+ Pacific Stock Index Admirals shares, flat.

My Australian mining shares continue to climb, especially Kagara Zinc (KZL) and Minara Resources (MRE)

Don't buy HP scanners and printers. Their hardware is good. But their software is just plain unreliable and awful -- especially when you're trying to install your HP device on a new PC.

Here's why I have always loved Monsanto:

I scanned this picture from today's Wall Street Journal. Last year, reports the Journal, Mr. Menara decided he'd had enough: He planted 17 acres of transgenic corn and much more this year. "It's a business," says Mr. Menara, whose bottom line approach to genetically modified seeds is not shared by many of his neighbors, who don't use them. The Monsanto-patented corn saved him about $38 an acre in pesticide bills last year, he says.

The Perfect Job
A guy walks into the local welfare office, marches straight up to the counter and says, "Hi... You know, I just HATE drawing welfare. I'd really
rather have a job."

The social worker behind the counter says, "Your timing is excellent. We just got a job opening from a very wealthy old man who wants a chauffeur and bodyguard for his beautiful nymphomaniac daughter. You'll have to drive around in his Mercedes S600, but he'll supply all of your clothes. Because of the long hours, meals will be provided. You'll be expected to escort her on her overseas holiday trips. You will have to satisfy all her sexual urges. You'll be provided a two-bedroom apartment above the garage. The starting salary is $200,000 a year."

The guy, wide-eyed, says, "You're kidding me!"

The social worker says, "Yeah, well... You started it."

The Montana Half Wit
A man owned a small ranch in Montana. The Montana Wage & Hour Dept, claimed he was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to interview him.

"I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them," demanded the agent.

"Well," replied the rancher, "There's my ranch hand who's been with me for 3 years. I pay him $600 a week plus free room and board. The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $500 per week plus free room and board.

Then there's the half-wit who works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night."

"That's the guy I want to talk to, the half-wit," says the agent.

"That would be me," replied the rancher.

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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