The Market notched another good week, with the Dow and SPX gaining about 1.5%. The big winner was the Nazz, which tacked on a hot 3.2%.
The losers? Aside from those of us in cash, the commodities got shee-lacked this week. Gold, Copper, Oil, Natural Gas were all lower, as Oil traipsed to 6 month lows.
Where does this leave us? Wondering what comes next: Housing data Tuesday, the Fed announcement Wednesday, and a holiday shortened week for the Hebraic amongst us — Friday is what an old boss used to call "Rosh-a-Home-a," as all his Jewish employees (me included) split early for the New Year holiday.
No matter its the weekend, and you what that means: Linkfest!
• Business Week looks at What’s Really Propping Up The Economy, and astonished me with this stat: Since 2001, the health-care industry has added 1.7 million jobs. The rest of the private sector? None
• Bloomberg’s Caroline Baum is the latest sharp eyed observer to note the idiocy of the Core rate: U.S. Inflation Measure May Be Rotten at the Core
• Marek Fuchs looks at Rewriting Post-9/11 Economic History;
• Be sure to check out the Economic Cycle graphic in: A Kinder, Gentler Mr. Market?
• And what has to be the oddest of the readings I came across this week: Time For Us To Go, wherein an eclectic group of Conservatives call for a GOP rout. (If anyone can explain this one to be, I would be eternally grateful).
• Lots of reasons why the Market’s have been in Rally mode
• As mentioned, Commodites suffered big whackage this week; Barron’s blames ETFs;
• Front page WSJ: The Hedge-Fund King Is Getting Nervous
• By definition, everyone can’t be a contrarian. While so many people were looking for a September sell off, it was that much less lkely to happen. (that is, until everone gets bullish)
• An amusing hypotheticasl meeting of the plunge protection team: The Exchange Stabilization Fund
• Dan Gross observes that is you Dump Your CEO, Today — Your stock price will rise
• Dell keeps Losing Money by Buying Stock Back
• And if you get tired of the Stock Market, you can always play the Spock Market;
• Home prices staying the same? Don’t kid yourself: There are Freebies Galore as Home Builder’s keep piling on Incentives;
• Would you buy a New Home — if the Builder Helped You Sell the Old One?
• Exotic Mortgage Brokers have become the new boiler rooms;
• A brutal piece by Comstock: The Hard Landing For Housing is Already Here;
• A San Diego sales manager of a branch office of a top-10 national lender describes the typical profile of mortgage applicants; Pretty shocking
• No surprise given the above: Foreclosures spiked in August;
• Too many commentators are Inconsistent on Oil: It cannot be heads we win, tails you lose . . .
• $15 Oil? Philip Verleger, the first analyst to forecast the major rise in Oil, thinks prices will plummet;
• That huge new discovery of oil in the gulf last week? Um, not so fast: Clarification of the Huge Chevron Gulf Oil Discovery
• A long but fascinating article on what neuroeconomics tells us about money and the brain.
• I normally think Ben Stein is an amiable goofball, but he gets it dead right in How Not to Ruin Your Life;
• The Most Common Mistake Traders Make (and how to avoid them)
• Are individual investors trading much less?
Technology and Science
• Zune, Microsoft and Corporate Culture (or why Microsoft is Microsoft)
• This cant be good
• Uh-oh, idiot copyright alert: Universal to upload lawsuits to YouTube, MySpace?
• Official questions regulatory scrutiny of Apple — they urge Europe to let new technology develop without interference;
• NASA researchers find Artic ice has shrunk abruptly;
Music, Film, Books, Television, Fun stuff
• I am also checking out the brand new CDs from:
- The Black Keys – Magic Potion
- John Mayer – Continuum
- Barenaked Ladies – Barenaked Ladies Are Me
But I do like old school:
- Frank Sinatra – Live in Australia, 1959
• And I am totally jazzed about the new Casino Royale;
• The next book up inthe queue: Peter Atkins’s Galileo’s Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science;
• Car facing a 747 backwash (Cool!)
• This killed me: Star Trek Cribs – The Director’s Cut (Artwork: Dope!)
• And the funniest bit of broadcast TV this week, David Letterman and Ann Heche discuss lesbians . . .
And whatever else you do this week, for God’s sake, don’t eat your Spinach!
What do you think of the new Zune?
That question led to fascinating discussion about Microsoft on Thursday. What they do, how they work, brainstorm, etc. It also covered how Microsoft develops new products (notice I didn’t say innovate).
A few quick thoughts on the Zune: The coolest thing is its owners ability to zap songs back and forth via a Wi-Fi
connection — but those songs expire after "three plays or three days, whichever
comes first," which is kinda poor. The 3 inch screen versus the 2.5 inch on the iPod also looks pretty nice. Other than that, its not a particularly compelling piece of hardware.
Brown? How long til that gets cancelled?
We don’t know the price yet, but I expect it to be in the $249 – 349 range, and a function of how much MSFT is willing to lose/subsidize each unit.
What I found most fascinating about "This Week in Microsoft" were the 3 separate products that leaked out over the past few days:
• The Zune iPod challenger (in classic "steal the other guys thunder" following Apple’s event)
Let’s get a few things straight about Mister Softee. First, forget all the chatter coming from Redmond about innovation. They are now and have always been uttery shameless copycats. They do not innovate; They do not create cool products; They are boring code writing cubicle dwelling drones — and that’s what they should be.
The second thing you need to know about Microsoft: They print money like they were a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department.
That is the bottom line for investors, and the cash ain’t coming from all these other products attempting to recapture lighting in a bottle. Its Windows 1st, Office 2nd, and then a big 4 way tie for SQL, Hardware (mouses etc.) Server SW, and then everything else. All these other products — including Xbox, hotmail, MSN, etc. — are what happens when you have more money than God and still want to be one of the cool kids.
And, they’d probably get just as much criticism if they didn’t make all these attempts at imitating other successful innovators. Otherwise, they would just be a mature company milking their monopoly products until the next paradigm shift came along.
Understand my complaint about Redmond: I don’t begudge them these many attempts to stay relevant and hip, to keep pressing buttons until they find the next thing that works. Hey, after you become one of the most successful firms in the history of Capitalism, it becomes hard to repeat that performance every quarter.
I’m just tired of the bullshit about all their terrific innovations (Spare me the techno-babble about multithreading processors or dynamic ram usage).
To understand how Microsoft got to be the "innovator" it is today, you need to have some background into the psychology of its leadership. My favorite example comes via Robert Cringely
If there is a reason, it has to come from the competitive nature of Bill
Gates as Microsoft’s spiritual and ethical leader. Everything is a competition
to Bill, and every competition has a winner and a loser. Microsoft people have
always been encouraged to see the game, not the consequences, and to win the
game even if winning this way makes no sense.
Let me give an example of this behavior. In the early days of Microsoft, one
of the popular games was to see how late the boys could leave work for the
airport and still make their flights. These weren’t people who were habitually
late, they were playing a game. The eventual winner was Bill Gates, of course,
but to win he had to abandon his car [a new Porsche 911] at the departures curb.
Tht pretty much says it all. They are competitive to a fault — its in their DNA. Its also why they have been such a vast money machine. But please: Spare us the sanctimonious garbage about Microsoft the innovator, and keep the focus on Microsoft the moneymaker.
Here’s some more recent ideas out of the innovation factory: