The Week in Review -- April 9, 1999

The Markets

  4/1 Close 4/9 Close Change %Change
DJIA 9,832.23 10,173.84 +341.61 +3.47
S&P 500 1,293.77 1,348.35 +54.58 +4.22
Nasdaq 2,493.72 2,593.06 +99.34 +3.98

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by Jerry Thomas (

Greetings, Fools.

There it was, the hot new IPO, the 'Net's latest ripe plum, the goods, the golden banana, all the marbles in one swift grab, the I-gotta-have-it stock of the decade, just for me. On a silver platter, right there for the taking: Yowza.

Could it be true? The Motley Fool jumping into the underwriting game? Endorsing a quick-flip, bag-your-profit-and-run Initial Public Offering? A sweet, fluffy, frothy, high-flying Internet stock? Hey, there it was, right on the Fool Home Page. How could I go wrong? Damn the torpedoes, somebody get my broker on the line!

I don't know what kind of a picture I make, diving headlong for the phone, grabbing it, frantically dialing it in midair before crashing against the opposite wall. Fortunately a friend was there to slap me back to my senses. "Cool it, Cheeze," he said. "It's just a joke."

A joke?

I stared at a blank spot on the ceiling while a lone flywheel turned somewhere in my brain. Eons passed in a moment. On a distant planet, civilizations rose and fell. The expression on my face was the same one Einstein wore just before he discovered, for all mankind, that catsup and ketchup are the same thing. Slowly I rose from the floor and walked across the room. I took the dictionary from my shelf and sifted through the pages, stopping, finally, on the correct word:

joke, n. A brief amusing story, esp. one with a punch line. An amusing or ludicrous incident or situation. A mischievous trick; prank.

Oh, I muttered, mouthing the words carefully. A joke.

By all accounts, this year's Motley Fool's April Fool's Day prank was a happy and popular success. By fabricating a fake IPO (for a company that distributes meringue, of all things, via the Internet), we were able to lampoon the latest crazy turn the investment world is taking, while at the same time reminding investors everywhere that a hot tip -- from any source -- should never be an excuse for an impulsive stock purchase. It is a timely lesson. Just this Wednesday, in a bizarre case of life imitating parody, shares of PairGain Technologies (Nasdaq: PAIR) leapt 31% when an elaborate Internet hoax suggested that the company was being acquired for $1.35 billion, far above its current valuation. Fortunately, is not a real company, but those who bought into Pairgain in response to this stunt were not so happily duped. So be wary, Fool. Protect yourself.

The best and easiest way to do that is to make a commitment to education. Make your investments on your own authority, and never on the urgent suggestion of somebody else. Know that not all Internet stocks are created equal: read Tuesday's Fool on the Hill commentary from Warren Gump, who tells the tales of (Nasdaq: PCLN) and Secure Computing (Nasdaq: SCUR), two other Internet companies that have each been used as the market's catspaw of late. It makes for a sound lesson. Start from the ground up -- learn the Investing Basics in this smart new feature compliments of Dayana Yochim and the Fool's School. If you do seek the advice of a financial professional, make sure you know his or her credentials -- The Fool's Paul Larson (TMF Parlay) has just written a new feature that will help you do just that.

This week, if you haven't already sent your tax returns to Uncle Sam, the prospect of last-minute filing is probably weighing heavily on your mind. You can ease that burden by looking into the Fool's Tax Haven, which brings together all of our tax-related resources on one handy page. Refer to it this week, and bookmark it so that you can return to it in the months to come as you position yourself optimally for the day the taxman comes in the year 2000.

Were you tricked by The Motley Fool's April Fool stunt? Maybe you don't want to admit it, but you can see how many of your friends online went for it hook, line, and sinker by checking out our Polling All Fools page. Before I go, I guess I should come clean and admit that I was tipped off to the prank a day ahead of time, thanks to a discreet email message from Fool HQ. Loved the gag, guys, but I gotta tell you, I'm still miffed that you didn't ask me to help set up this whopper. That pie in the face woulda been real sweet.

Until next week,
Fool on!


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