The Week in Review -- December 3, 1999

The Markets
  11/26 Close 12/3 Close Change %Change
DJIA 10,988.91 11,286.18 +297.27 +2.71
S&P 500 1,416.62 1,433.30 +16.68 +1.18
Nasdaq 3,447.81 3,520.63 +72.82 +2.11

Top News Stories of the Week

The Sound of Shopping
by Jerry Thomas (TMF Cheeze)

Greetings, Fools.

Imagine. It's December already. If you listen closely enough, you can hear a sound, a sound coming at you from all directions. It is the sound, not of sleigh bells, not of figgy pudding blooping in the pot, but of people shopping.

A strong shopping season bodes well for investors in retail stocks. Most people call this the Christmas season, but in the world of business -- always with its attention turned toward the bottom line -- it's the Big Fourth Quarter, the dominant cash-generating season that, for many retailers, can make or break the year. Consider, for example, Wilsons The Leather Experts (Nasdaq: WLSN). In this week's StockTalk Interview with Dave Marino-Nachison (TMF Braden), CEO Joel Waller talks about the importance of this time to his business, which represents some 15-20% of the leather apparel retailing in the United States. "We do about 65% of our business in the fourth quarter," says Waller, which is a statistic you might think about as you elbow your way through the crowds at Sears in the weeks to come. Sears, by the way, is the subject of Thursday's Foolish Four report by Ann Coleman (TMF AnnC). The troubled retail giant has had a bit of good news to tell in recent days.

Or maybe you want to avoid the mall scene altogether this year. Fools Robyn Gearey (TMF Robyn) and David Wolpe (TMF DBunk) have combined to create our Foolish Guide to Online Shopping. Maybe you'd like to join the millions who have already been lured online by the conveniences of shopping by dotcom, and want to try it yourself. Maybe you're a bit skittish about the process, and you don't want to venture into these realms without a good understanding of what to expect and where to go for a secure and satisfactory transaction. This guide will give you the answers to some frequently asked questions, and will also point you to some places that will help you evaluate the online vendors before you send them your dollars.

And speaking of online shopping, Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible) asks the anxiety-ridden question, "Will e-community kill e-commerce?" in Wednesday's Rule Breaker. That's quite a question. This Internet thing is still so new. We don't know how it's going to work itself out yet. Rick suggests that as people warm up to cyberspace, their newfound ability to share information will undercut any retailer's newfound advantages in the Net's capacity to make the distribution of products more efficient. It's a thought that does not bode well for the likes of (Nasdaq: AMZN) or any of the other burgeoning online vendors you can name. I'll leave it to Rick to expand on the theme, hoping that this little mention has piqued your interest enough to click on the link and examine the idea more closely.

The whole say-I-love-you-with-merchandise thing doesn't work for everybody, of course, and this week Barbara Eisner Bayer (TMF Venus) offers a great alternative: giving stock. It's an especially great gift for children, who stand to learn a great deal just by knowing they have a stake in the company that makes their favorite action figure or happy meal -- and it can cost less than what you spent last year on one of those Furby dolls that your kid lost interest in once Pokemon came along. Barbara gives you all the details on how to give stock as a gift in Tuesday's Foolish Four report.

There were two items by Bill Mann (TMF Otter) this week that are worth your while. First is Monday's Rule Maker, where Bill explains why he and his fellow portfolio managers are sometimes extremely critical of the stocks that are held in that portfolio. In a Wise world where nobody speaks ill of a stock until after they sell it, it baffles some that we are so willing to run Foolishly against that standard of behavior. Then in Wednesday's Fool on the Hill, Bill examines the tax proposals of Donald J. Trump, who lately has been posturing himself for a run for the White House.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, was the one item this week that made me most pleased that I work for the organization I do: Thursday's Fool on the Hill commentary by Bill Barker (TMF Max). In it, Bill examines the Vanguard mutual fund group's practice of reporting the results of its funds' performances after accounting for taxes. Bill doesn't mince words: In the real world, he says, this standard of accountability outstrips even our own.

Applause, Bill, for not being afraid to call it like you see it.

Until next week,
Fool on!


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