Cocktail Chatter

Man, is it a new year already? Plus ca change, at least when it comes to technology stocks, which have been roaring since early October and have shifted into even higher gear this week. Keynes’ dictum about the importance of “animal spirits” in investing seems especially apt right now, when all news seems good, and even bad news is just an excuse to shift money from the dogs into Intel or Microsoft or, yes, one of those Internet stocks. Will it all end in tears? Maybe, but if so they’ll probably just be little sniffles, instead of the great heaving sobs that echoed through Wall Street in September. Unless, of course, Brazil falls apart.

For the weekend, though, push thoughts of real doom aside and embrace instead the possibilities created by 52 (I guess technically it’s 51) new weeks of Cocktail Chatter. My cup runneth over.

1. “Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner is only going to get half of the bonus he got last year after a year in which the company’s earnings dropped 6 percent and its share price declined 5 percent. The 24 million stock options he owns–currently worth around $210 million–undoubtedly softened the blow.”

2. “Kellogg somewhat unexpectedly appointed a new CEO, who comes into office with the mandate to restore the cereal giant’s sliding market share. Unfortunately, no one at Kellogg appears to have figured out that $4.50 is an excellent price for a bushel of wheat, but a pretty ridiculous price for a box of Special K. No matter how slim it will make me.”

3. “ announced that its fourth-quarter sales soared to $250 million, blowing past the expectations of all investors, even the insane ones. It also announced that the sales increase wouldn’t put the company any closer to profitability. Investors reacted by sending the stock up another 40 points. If Amazon started putting out regular press releases saying, ’This is how much money we lost this week!’ the stock would be at $1000 before you knew it.”

4. “I bet more NBA fans know who was guarding Michael Jordan when he hit the winning shot in Game 6 of the finals last year than know that what just ended was a lockout, and not a strike.”

5. “In an attempt to explain why, even though the prices for hogs have dropped to historic lows, the price of pork in the store has stayed relatively stable, a Prudential analyst told the New YorkTimes it was because ‘consumers dislike price volatility.’ Yeah, I hate it when I can buy things for less. In fact, when stores cut prices, I boycott.”

6. “Investors have begun the new year with a simple philosophy: If it’s being traded, you should buy it.”

7. “Japanese Justice Minister Shozaburo Nakumura apologized for comments in which he described the freedom of the U.S. free-market economy as ‘a freedom that lets loose atom bombs and missiles just when another country appears to gain an advantage.’ Apparently, what he meant to say instead was that it was ‘a freedom that did not respect Japan’s right to establish a Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.’ “