Pre-Oscar Cocktail Chatter

Dow 10,000, pshaw! The most important news of the week was the announcement that Fleet Bank and Bank of Boston would be merging in a $16 billion deal. This is important because I bank at Fleet and want to make sure that the fees for my checking account are not raised. Consolidation in the banking industry is inevitable and probably good business. Just as long as I don’t start getting charged for ATM withdrawals.

It’s Oscars weekend, which means that Monday morning we’ll be greeted with giant ads trumpeting the victories of the previous night. It also means that Shakespeare in Love and Saving Private Ryan will be in theaters for another two months. I wish I knew if this made economic sense. But in the face of Hollywood, even Adam Smith would tremble. So, on to the Chatter!

1. “Shares of CMGI, the Internet investment firm, rocketed on Wednesday after the company announced a stock split. We are now witnessing an amazing alchemical phenomenon: Cutting the pie into smaller slices really does make the whole damn thing bigger. At least for a few minutes.”

2. “Cheap Tickets, a company devoted to getting you, well, cheap tickets, went public Thursday, and even though the firm does 10 percent of its business over the Internet, its management chose not to play up the .com connection . Honorable. Stupid, but honorable.”

3. “In one fell swoop, Chancellor Media said it was not for sale , said its CEO was resigning, and said that it had given up on its attempt to buy Lin Television, which was supposed to be the linchpin of a budding media empire. ‘We’re taking our ball and going home,’ the press release said.”

4. “An Intel vice president testifying before the Senate Finance Committee about corporate taxes said that if Intel were incorporating now, he would recommend that it incorporate in the Cayman Islands . Presumably that’s because of the especially lovely beaches in the Caymans.”

5. “Thanks to discount PC maker Microworks, you’ll soon be able to buy a fully-featured PC for $299 (monitor not included, I think). If this trend continues, that Intel vice-president may have bigger things to worry about than whether the Marines would come protect Intel’s factories when they’re overrun by angry Caymanians.”

6. “Coca-Cola disclosed in its annual report that it spent $1.2 billion last year on marketing for its largest bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises, in which it owns a significant stake. The spending helped raise sales volume by 6 percent, but also made a significant dent in Coke’s profits. A company spokesman was heard to mutter, ‘Hey, Amazon does it. Why can’t we?’ “

7. “The Dow rose above 10,000, then swooned like Camille . But hey, at least there were none of those pesky mathematical problems–you know, computers not being able to handle five digits–that people had expected. Bring on Y2K!”