Cocktail Chatter

“I see the boys of summer in their ruin.” Though the stock market has bounced up and down like an exuberant okapi this week, we’re a long way from the glory days of July. And with every day bringing more bad news on the corporate earnings front and continued chaos abroad, it may be hard to be cheerful at this weekend’s cocktail parties. But, hey, Abby Joseph Cohen of Goldman Sachs is still as bullish as ever. That’s gotta count for something.

In any case, here is the final “Cocktail Chatter” of the summer, a collection of breezy conversational openings guaranteed to make people think you spend way too much time watching CNBC and reading the Wall Street Journal. Next week, the new fall season starts. I hope to be much funnier by then.

1. “The Russian government collected just $873 million in taxes in the month of August, which works out to about four dollars a person. All the money will be spent on improving the highway between the Kremlin and Boris Yeltsin’s dacha.”

2. “After spending last week buying stocks, Hong Kong’s government has now banned short selling. Next on the agenda appears to be an edict that will actually make it illegal for stocks ever to go down.”

3. “A study showed that more American teenagers can name the Three Stooges than can name the three branches of government. Undocumented reports, meanwhile, suggest that more American junior-high school students can name the four members of the Spice Girls than can name the four points on a compass, while more American Gen-Xers can name ten Happy Days characters than can name the Ten Commandments. Scarier still, more American adults can tell you where Cisco’s stock ended the day than can tell you what Cisco actually makes.”

4. “In honor of Labor Day, North American unions are flexing their muscles. Air Canada pilots are on strike, Northwest pilots are on strike, and Air Tran flight attendants are about to walk out, while telco workers across the country have been giving the Baby Bells fits. We’re a long way from the 1930s. But middle-class workers are deciding they want more of the profit pie.”

5. “The hedge fund run by John Meriwether, formerly of Salomon Brothers in the 1980s, lost $1.8 billion in the month of August. Shake it off, man. You’ll get ‘em next time.”

6. “After Monday’s crash, everyone keeps calling on Alan Greenspan to cut interest rates. But is there anyone in America who really thinks that Greenspan isn’t secretly pleased with the stock-market downturn? He’s about as likely to step in to help get the Dow back to 9300 as he is to replace Wallace Shawn as the high-school teacher on Clueless.”

7. “Analyst Andrea Williams of Volpe Brown Whelan is a bull on Internet stocks, and has buy or hold ratings on a bunch of them. Yesterday, in an attempt to explain why you couldn’t use traditional valuation techniques on these stocks, she told a writer at, ‘Nobody knows what these stocks are worth.’ Let’s see. Nobody knows what these stocks are worth, and yet you’re telling investors whether to buy or hold them. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?”