Foolish Four Portfolio
Being Alan Greenspan

By Barbara Eisner Bayer (TMF Venus)

HILLSBORO BEACH, FL (Nov. 16, 1999) -- It was like a dream. I suddenly found myself in Washington, D.C., a thousand miles from home, in the Marriner S. Ecles Building on the corner of 20th and C streets, home of the Federal Reserve.

I pressed the button for the fifth floor, hoping to gain access to the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting room, where I could witness Alan Greenspan and his chums deciding the fate of interest rates. Then I could hop on my horse and ride through the streets of our nation's capital, screaming in Paul Revere fashion, "The Fed's gonna raise" or "The Fed's gonna hold," causing the markets to overreact a few minutes before they would anyway.

But the elevator stopped midway between floors 4 and 5, presenting me with a myriad of decisions: Should I panic, press the emergency button, or scream? How I longed for a seat at the regal oval table making equals of Fed governors. I peeked through the open door, noticing a placard indicating floor 4 1/2. Seduced by the mysterious, I hunched over and entered this floor with a low ceiling, denying my back pain while tabulating my future chiropractic bill.

The door slammed behind me as my body was hurled down a long chute. Down, down, down. I searched for signs of Alice amid the goo encasing my body, but clearly she didn't live here any more.

After a clunky stop, I peered through a foggy opening at the faces sitting across from me: William McDonough, Gary Stern, Jack Guynn -- I was looking at the members of the FOMC. Only, nobody could see me because I had somehow found a portal into the Fed chairman's brain. I WAS BEHIND THE EYES OF ALAN GREENSPAN!

All around me numerical figures were floating in the aspic -- Gross Domestic Product bumping into Producer Price Index crashing into Consumer Price Index sliding by Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization. There was so much economic information in that brain, I barely had room to scratch my nose, let alone Alan's.

Then I heard the most revered man in business conversing about interest rates, economic indices, irrational exuberance, yada yada yada. Fearful of being crushed by the weight of economic data crawling around Greenspan's cerebellum, I impulsively yelled, "Stop droning!" All at once the room hushed. Everyone had heard me speaking in the chairman's voice. He was now a puppet in my hands -- I could control his speech and movements. I was now being Alan Greenspan.

But what would I say? Here I was, the voice of a Fool, able to address this most august body of economists.

No more interest rate hikes? Of course not. The Fed uses the leverage of raising and lowering interest rates to control inflation. Surely I don't want a country destroyed by inflation run amok.

"Invest in businesses and don't day trade?" Sure, that's great Foolish philosophy, but Greenspan already lives on the side of the long-term investor.

What I said was� "Lighten up."

Lighten up?

You betcha. Too much attention is given to the Fed's handling of interest rates. Sometimes they raise, sometimes they lower, sometimes they do nothing at all. Their commitment is to maintaining a healthy economic flow and they'll do whatever is necessary, in their opinion, to accomplish that result. Long-term investors benefit from a stable economy, the kind that the Fed tries to maintain. And judging from the economy during Greenspan's tenure, we're in good hands.

The media, however, makes one think the sun rises and sets with the Fed's actions. It doesn't. No matter what action the Fed takes, the sun will rise, the wind will blow, and I'll be too lazy to cook anything for supper other than frozen fish fillets.

I think of the spin the media will put on "Lighten up," after I speak those words through the chairman's mouth. Pundits will no doubt analyze this Greenspeak into the ground. Does he mean lighten up our portfolios? Should we move to cash? Is this a sell signal?

Has he been reading The Motley Fool? Does he mean that we shouldn't take him, the market, or ourselves so seriously?

Maybe he means power and light. Invest in utilities. Move out of the hot tech stocks and into something more stable. Is this a signal that Y2K is going to be a problem? Should we invest in generator manufacturers? Or should we just buy generators?

Perhaps he's started smoking again!

As my mind raced with future Greenspeak, darkness overcame me, then a thud. I opened my eyes to find myself flung from his brain and deposited on the shoulder of a Beltway access road.

The Fed raised interest rates by 25 basis points today, but adopted a neutral bias. Not a word was said about Greenspan's brief moment as a puppet.

And what did this Fool learn from her surrealistic experience being Alan Greenspan? It's much more fun Being John Malkovich.

Today's Stock Lists | 1999 Dow Returns

Read More Foolish Four Reports

Top Dow Stocks
( RP Order )


1. Philip Morris
2. * Eastman Kodak
3. * General Motors
4. * Caterpillar
5. * DuPont
6. SBC Comm.
7. AT&T
8. Exxon
9. Int'l Paper
10. JP Morgan

NOTE: Today's Foolish Four stock selections are marked with an asterisk.

Foolish Four Portfolio

11/16/99 Closing Numbers
Ticker Company Dly Pr Chg Price
IPINTL PAPER-1/2$55.19
JPMMORGAN (JP)7/8$142.25

  Day Week Month Year
To Date
Foolish Four 2.00% 3.27% 5.47% 32.85% 34.83% 39.48%
S&P 500(DA) 1.84% 1.72% 4.19% 16.10% 16.17% 18.16%
NASDAQ 2.28% 2.23% 11.01% 50.18% 51.58% 58.91%
DJIA (DA) 1.59% 1.51% 1.89% 20.47% 20.62% 23.22%

Trade Date # Shares Ticker Cost/Share Price LT % Val Chg

Trade Date # Shares Ticker Cost Value LT $ Val Ch
  Cash: $119.51  
  Total: $5,393.14  

• S&P 500 (DA) = dividend adjusted. Dividends have been added to the total return of the index.
• DJIA (DA) = dividend adjusted. Dividends have been added to the total return of the DJIA.

The Foolish Four Portfolio was launched on December 24, 1998, with $4,000. Additional cash is never added, all transactions are discussed and explained publicly before being made, and returns are compared daily to the S&P 500 and the Dow. (Dividends are included in the yearly, historic and annualized returns.) Stocks are chosen once per year using a formula based on dividend yield and price. See The Foolish Four Explained for details.