The Week in Review -- October 22, 1999

The Markets

  10/15 Close 10/22 Close Change %Change
DJIA 10,019.71 10,470.25 +450.54 +4.50
S&P 500 1,247.52 1,301.65 +54.13 +4.34
Nasdaq 2,731.83 2,816.52 +84.69 +3.10

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The Nitty-Gritty
by Jerry Thomas (TMF Cheeze)

Greetings, Fools.

My habit in this space each week is to rhapsodize, or, when that fails, to entertain my readers with some series of observations that are, if not poignant, then at least amusing. That's a worthy aim, I think, and occasionally I manage to achieve it. But I do know that most readers come to Fooldom in search of the nitty-gritty: They want to find the information that will help them make the right choices when it comes time to make their investment decisions. And sometimes I think I lose track of my readers' very worthy practical intentions in my efforts to impress them with a clever observation or turn of phrase. Well, not this week. Let's focus today instead on getting information about companies you want to invest in.

The first thing I do when I want to learn about a company is head out to our message boards. We have an amazing Community of stock-watchers out there, and they have, over several years of continued posting, created a huge warehouse of thought about the companies they follow. Many groups of readers have collaborated to create resources available to newcomers, such as the FAQ (frequently asked questions) page assembled by the contributors to our Berkshire Hathaway message board. You'll also find some very handy links on each of our stock message board pages that can bring you quotes, news, and charts data. In short, by getting into the habit of using these resources, you can very quickly assemble a great deal of information about any stock that interests you.

You're powerful! You have digital servants that can bring you all the current data about any company you please with a few commanding mouse clicks!

It will also pay you to get to know our various stock portfolios. Each represents a distinct approach to investing, even while each approach remains thoroughly Foolish. For example, if you are interested in following the commercial behemoths that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average, your best bet is to watch the Foolish Four portfolio, which focuses on just this set of stocks. Turn to Thursday's report, for instance, and you'll find Ann Coleman's (TMF AnnC) take on the sharp price decline suffered this week by Philip Morris (NYSE: MO). Fool co-founder Tom Gardner likes what we call "Rule Making" companies, which are typically large, dominating, cash-rich kings of industry. His Rule Maker portfolio luxuriates in the study of these companies. Phil Weiss' (TMF Grape) look at the latest earnings report from Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) in Thursday's report is typical of the deep analysis you'll find there most any day of the week.

Of course, there are other portfolios, but my space is limited, so I'll leave them for you to explore.

Now turn to our Fool News pages. Here you'll find our ongoing coverage of the events that are shaping the investment world. You'll also find one of my favorite Fool features: Fool on the Hill. In these pieces our Foolish analysts and writers get to turn themselves loose on any topic that moves them. That freedom, I think, is part of what makes the feature so compelling. If you haven't sampled them before, here are a couple worth your while: In Wednesday's Fool on the Hill, Bill Mann (TMF Otter) takes a close look at the Securities and Exchange Commission's efforts to cajole companies into being more forthcoming in their disclosure to rank-and-file shareholders (in other words, YOU). For my money, our advocacy of shareholder rights is one of the most important missions we have here at TMF. Thursday's Fool on the Hill is by Dale Wettlaufer (TMF Ralegh), and it examines Fortune Brands (NYSE: FO); Dale suggests that the company shows weaknesses on its balance sheet that are not all that apparent in the strength of its brand. Dale's way of X-raying a financial statement brings clarity to some challenging concepts.

"Dueling Fools" is a feature that appears every week, usually on Wednesday. This week, the focus is on Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS), a company that is a leader in the world of sports-oriented video games. Dueling Fools presents opposing viewpoints on a given issue, usually the prospects for a given company, and is a great resource if you want a well-rounded examination of the challenges facing the company in the hot seat. It also gives you great ammo in the ongoing battle every stockholder must face when justifying the choices he or she makes in choosing to take a position in a given stock.

Where does the time go? It seems I've only scratched the surface of what we offer in Fooldom. I'll follow up this theme in next week's Notes, as I continue to survey the resources you have at hand here in Fooldom. First, though, a couple of things: Thursday's Fribble from Robert T. Duffey ("duffsafool") is a lot of fun -- it's a pop quiz of your knowledge of Foolish investing. Also, please spend some time learning the latest about our Fool Charity Drive -- we're calling on Fools everywhere to suggest some worthy causes for the season of giving that is almost upon us. Do take a minute to offer your own suggestion.

Until next week,
Fool on!



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