DJIA: 7660.13 -31.64 (-0.41%) S&P 500: 932.70 -6.42 (-0.68%) Nasdaq: 1499.53 -10.38 (-0.69%) 30-Year Bond 103 1/32 -16/32 5.90% Yield
Application specific integrated circuit maker Integrated Circuit Systems (Nasdaq: ICST) rose $15/16 to $23 7/16 after the company was rated a "buy" in initial coverage at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, with a 12-month price target of $40.
North Face Inc. (Nasdaq: TNFI) climbed $1 1/8 higher to $20 1/8 after the apparel and outdoor gear maker was reiterated a "buy" at both Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Discover and SBC Warburg Dillon Read.
The "other" regional Bell operating company, Cincinnati Bell (NYSE: CSN), rose $3/4 to $29 15/16 after Bear Stearns raised the company "buy" from "neutral" with a 12-month price target of $40. This move comes on the heels of Cincinnati Bell's purchase of AT&T's (NYSE: T) customer service unit for $625 million in cash As a result of that purchase, Standard & Poor's placed the credit ratings of Cincinnati Bell on CreditWatch.
Department store Nordstrom Inc. (Nasdaq: NOBE) gained $1 3/4 to $56 5/8 after announcing that it will build a new 200,000 square foot store at Denver's Cherry Creek shopping center. The store is scheduled to open in the spring of 2001.
One of the nation's largest cinema owners, Regal Cinemas (Nasdaq: REGL), added $1 to $25 after the Wall Street Journal reported that the company may be the target of a takeover.
Specialty finance firm FirstPlus Financial Group (Nasdaq: FPFG) gained $1 1/4 to $34 after the New York Stock Exchange granted conditional approval to list FirstPlus common stock. The company hopes that it will commence NYSE trading under the ticker symbol "FP" on or about January 8.
Transaction processor Concord EFS (Nasdaq: CEFT) jumped $1 11/16 to $22 7/8 after confirming that, based on quarterly trends and the company's available internal information, management expects to report 1997 fourth quarter earnings of $0.20 to $0.22 per share, compared with estimates of $0.21.
Physician practice management provider Physicians' Specialty Corp. (Nasdaq: ENTS) rose $3/4 to $9 1/4 after announcing that it had entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of Cobb Ear, Nose & Throat Associates, P.C., a six physician group practice based in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia.
After getting jolted yesterday Korea Electric Power (NYSE: KEP) surged $5/8 to $10 3/8 after it was announced that South Korea will get another $10 billion in aid by early January under a program led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Diversified precious metal products manufacturer Handy & Harman (NYSE: HNH) rose $1 1/2 to $34 7/8 after it voted to reject a $342 million unsolicited takeover bid from integrated steel manufacturer WHX Corp.(NYSE: WHX), saying "the company is not for sale," at least at that price.
The less-than-a-truckload shipping service company Roadway Express (Nasdaq: ROAD) lost $3 11/16 to $21 3/8 after it said that it expects earnings for the fourth quarter of 1997 to show "only modest improvement" over the $0.52 per share reported for the fourth quarter of 1996. The company blamed rising labor costs due to increased freight volume.
Information Storage Devices (Nasdaq: ISDI), a designer of analog integrated circuit technology, fell $3/8 to $5 13/16 on announcing that for the 1997 fourth quarter it expects to report a loss of about $6 million, or $0.60 per share. The company attributed the results to a number of one-time charges prompted by inventory write-offs and bad debt expenses surrounding the uncertainty in Asia, as well as charges related to the "conversion to new generation technology."
PC graphics controller and multimedia chip maker Trident Microsystems (Nasdaq: TRID) lost $1 1/8 to $7 7/8 today after announcing that second quarter revenues would be significantly below expectations, down 30-35% sequentially, which will result in a loss for the quarter. Trident blamed the slowdown on lost sales in Asia.
Health Systems Design Corp. (Nasdaq: HSDC), a provider of managed care information systems software, lost $1 3/4 to $7 after reporting a Q4 loss of $0.34 per share (after a restructuring charge) compared with estimates for break-even EPS.
Your Money or Your Life?
For several years now, the Vancouver-based Media Foundation has sponsored what it calls "Buy Nothing Day." Perversely enough, in the U.S. it coincides with what's generally considered the busiest shopping day of the year -- the day after Thanksgiving. This Canadian group has also been trying to get a major U.S. television network to run their paid ads promoting this anti-consumer celebration. The commercial features an animated pig (the ugly American) acting downright oinky while a voiceover puts our sins in perspective: "The average North American consumes five times more than a Mexican, ten times more than a Chinese person..." and so on.
For the third year running CNN Headline News agreed to air the spots, wedged up against its "Dollars and Sense" segment. A CNN official told The Wall Street Journal that the news network believed it should make its commercial space open for debates over important issues of the day. The major networks, though, have said no way. According to the Journal, NBC's VP of advertising said, "We don't want to take any advertising that's inimical to our legitimate business interests." In other words, you can't promote anti-consumerism -- even if you're being paid to do so -- when the companies that pay a lot more of your bills depend on a free-spending citizenry. CBS officials put it more directly, charging that Buy Nothing Day is "in opposition to the current economic policy in the United States." In short, an anti-consumerist position is un-American, at least as CBS conceives the term.
Make no mistake, the Media Foundation wants a revolution. The brainchild of Kalle Lasn, a former ad man from Estonia turned traitor to his old calling, the Foundation is a left-leaning, environmentalist-oriented outfit that devotes a lot of energy to being media assassins. It skewers the propaganda vehicles of our consumer society by way of an incendiary quarterly magazine called Adbusters. Among the provocative images you'll find in that publication and at the Adbusters website (http://www.adbusters.org) is one of a bald head, seen from the back, a barcode stamped at the neck about where Scully from The X-Files had that strange microchip implanted. The caption reads: "the Product is You."
As for action plans, the group favors holding public rallies where passers-by are encouraged to cut up those 18% annual rate credit cards. That sounds a bit like Foolishly sound money management. The Adbusters website also includes a "Christmas Gift Exemption Voucher," which you can download. The instructions read, "Instead of spending their Christmas Eve trawling through the mall in a panic looking for token gifts you don't even need, encourage your friends and loved ones to spend time WITH you, not money ON you. Present them with the voucher, which exempts them from buying you Christmas presents conditional on them spending quality time with you instead."
All of this may sound rather naive. But I think it's safe to say that all of us, at least at times, are appalled by the orgy of consumption that we call "the holidays." It just speaks volumes about the tremendous power of capitalism in directing us to commodify affection, to substitute spectacle for values, to shape us into proper market segments for the greater glory of various corporate bottom lines. If you care to indulge such curmudgeonly thoughts, I recommend you look for a show that's been making the rounds on PBS. Called "Affluenza" (www.pbs.org/affluenza), the one-hour program addresses what it calls "the modern-day plague of materialism and overconsumption."
Affluenza is basically the constant desire for more stuff, and the show claims that it is straining our relationships, eroding communities, and destroying the environment. It's the kind of PBS show that treats the Adbusters with genuine seriousness. Symptoms of the disease? In 1997, over 1.1 million Americans are expected to declare personal bankruptcy -- that's more people than will graduate from college. Ninety percent of divorces are said to dissolve, in part, due to arguments about money. By age 20, the average American has seen more than a million commercials. The average American also spends six hours a week shopping but only 40 minutes playing with their children. There's no end to the devastating factoids.
We could quibble over these "facts" and ask for the sources. Can the last stat really be true? Still, the program has the feeling of authenticity and is sure to give you a healthy moment's pause. The show was financed, in part, by friends of Joe Dominguez, co-author of Your Money or Your Life, a early '90s book that advocates a return to a less commodified existence. A former denizen of Wall Street, Dominguez reportedly learned to live on just $7,000 a year. The book inspired many others to try a similar path.
As you've realized by now, this isn't your basic Fool on the Hill "investment opinion." Frankly, I think it's a little crass to run through the financials on some potentially hot stock on Christmas Eve. I think that most of you Foolish readers will agree. Still, I do want to offer an opinion about the importance of having perspective when you invest. In the Bible, the book of Luke, Jesus says, "For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." I'll let theologians sweat out the subtleties of that remark. Yet whether you read that as scripture or simply a provocative philosophical or even social comment, it should remind us that creating wealth is not an end in itself.
To some extent, it can easily become an obstacle preventing us from living a moral or ethical life. And inundated as we are with messages to commodify ourselves and our emotions, it's easy to pursue wealth-creation as the solution to what is properly a problem of perspective, restraint, values. One of the best ways to improve your investing is to think about what wealth will buy you and whether these things are consistent with your values, with your vision of a proper life. I think it's likely that after some soul-searching about these goals, you'll be able to save and invest more of your money today and spend it more Foolishly down the road, never allowing the creation of wealth to become something more important than it is. To that end, happy holidays.
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Brian Bauer (TMF Hoops), Fool Five