Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Well, if people were expecting the end of summer to bring a return to high-volume trading and sharp price swings on Wall Street, they were certainly disappointed. The languor of the late summer carried over into this week, as the stock market meandered aimlessly (is there any way to meander aimfully?). The Dow is now just about where it was in early May. Interest rates are higher, but inflation looks just as dead, and corporate earnings are booming, and when you mix all that together, what you end up with is a market that looks to be about where it should be.

Of course, this could all change tomorrow.

There was only one story this week–Viacom and CBS–and unfortunately it was a story that got written four or five hundred times without anything really changing. So now we all get to look at NBC and wonder how long it’ll be before it snaps up or is snapped up by a movie studio or something. It’s almost like the 1980s, but thanks to Mel Karmazin it’s not. So on to the Cocktail Chatter.

1. “Today was the day when the dreaded 9/9/99 bug was supposed to strike and mess up computers everywhere. But the bug was a nonstarter. There were no &$%@#($$$@#((… Mayday! Mayday!”

2. “The International Monetary Fund had planned to sell $2.5 billion of its gold stash to finance debt relief for poor countries, but has given up on that plan because the gold industry was worried that the sale would force down prices. It must be great to have a vault full of a useless metal that’s valuable only because other people think it’s valuable and then find out that other people think it’s so valuable that if you sell it, the value will disappear.”

3. “Sun Microsystems introduced its ‘revolutionary enterprise desktop appliance,’ the Sun Ray 1, with a print ad featuring 27 lines and more than 300 words of copy. Whatever happened to: ‘Coke–It’s the Real Thing’?”

4. “Buddhadey Bhattacharya, home minister for West Bengal, told the New York Times: ‘We discuss the great questions: What is postmodernism? What does Noam Chomsky have to say about this or that? Was Green Acres a televisual enactment of William Jennings Bryan’s ‘Cross of Gold’ speech?’”

4a. “OK, joke’s over. Bhattacharya didn’t really say that ‘What is postmodernism?’ was a great question.”

5. “Britain’s central bank raised its securities repurchase rate by 25 basis points yesterday, essentially taking back a rate cut it had pushed through in June. Markets everywhere shrugged.”

6. “Among the competitive concerns raised by analysts of the Viacom-CBS deal was the possibility that when Runaway Bride, which was produced by Paramount, is sold to television, CBS will have the inside track. Apparently, concerns about just this kind of situation spurred Congress to pass the Sherman Antitrust Act back in the 1890s. Who knew anyone could have that much foresight?”

7. “Warren Jenson, chief financial officer for Delta Air Lines, is leaving his job to become CFO of Among other things, Jenson would like to work on making Amazon’s stock price ‘more stable.’ It’s lovely to dream big dreams, isn’t it?”