WOODSTOCK, NY (July 29, 1999) -- Who ran into the New York Stock Exchange this morning and yelled "Fire!"?

Not the formerly booming U.S. economy, which sent a message that growth has slowed down, thanks to lower spending by consumers and the government. This is good.

It was none other than the Labor Department, which reported that wages and benefits for workers increased to their highest rate in eight years. This is a great thing for Americans' paychecks, but not for their portfolios. At least for today. Why? Because in order to combat the inflation that could ensue from higher salaries and the spending that accompanies higher pay, the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates. And higher rates cause market volatility.

Those darned interest rates. Less than a month ago when the Fed indicated a neutral bias, investors were knocking each other over in an effort to reel in stocks. But today, they're pushing and shoving to get out. Where's the fire marshal when you need him? It's just one more false alarm in the daily antics of the whirlwind known as the stock market.

Today's action squeezed all the "I told you so" commentators out of their cocoons for their quarterly predictions of doom and gloom. One chap on CNBC presciently connected this to the beginning of the Year 2000 problem crash. C'mon, guy -- we KNOW the media will be all over the story in the late fall -- I beg you, give us a break until then!

Whatever happens in anticipation of any Y2K problems, we Fools will hold long and strong. In the overall scheme of things, the transition to the new millennium will most likely be a short-term memory six months down the road. Come June 2000, pundits will be too busy worrying about some upcoming Fed meeting to remember what happened on the 1st of the year.

The recipe for Foolish investing, especially for Rule Breaking, requires 2 cups of research, 1 cup of common sense, 2 tablespoons of energy, and the secret ingredient -- a hefty dollop of faith.


Absolutely. We diligently do our research. We weigh the risks with the potential rewards. And then� we faithfully wait. Because faith is the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Sure, we will eventually look back and be able to know all our efforts were worthwhile -- but until then, we have to rely on our faith in the companies we choose.

David Gardner has written on our Rule Breaker message board:

"Investing in Amazon -- like investing in any Rule Breaker -- is an act of faith: a belief in things unseen. Not all one's Amazonlike investments work out, and some are quite ill-fated -- a few, disastrous. Our Rule Breaker strategy is predicated on enough of them working out sufficiently spectacularly to enable us to beat the market. No particular Rule Breaker is a 'sure thing' -- not one of them."

The Rule Breaker was down again today in line with the dismal markets. But there have been three rays of light that have renewed my faith in one of our beleaguered holdings � Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) � as the battered Rule Breaker struggles to recapture investor love and shareholder value.

Ray of Light #1: Earlier this week, Starbucks opened its first retail store in Korea. Cin Koo Chung, president of ESCO (its Korean partner), said: "Our commitment to people, quality coffee and innovative products, and excellent customer service will provide Korea with a unique caf� experience. Starbucks will easily become the market leader in Korea as the brand is highly respected and has a global appeal."

Commitment, quality, innovation, excellent customer service, unique, highly respected brand. All qualities that give us faith that Starbucks can bounce back from an unsettling period and continue the leadership that it previously exhibited.

Ray of Light #2: United Airlines will begin offering two Starbucks drinks on their flights: Mocha Frappucino and LightNote Blend. Why? Because according to Larry DeShon, United's managing director of onboard service, "Our customers have told us that Starbucks coffee makes their flights more enjoyable."

More enjoyable.

Ray of Light #3: Starbucks blueberry muffins have become a life saver for Hsing-Hsing, the most famous giant panda in this country. Turns out the big ol' bear (his species, not his investing style) will only take medication for a life-threatening kidney dysfunction if the zookeeper hides it inside a Starbucks blueberry muffin. Oh yes, the zoo keeper tried other brands; but Hsing-Hsing "would spit out any muffin that wasn't Starbucks." At long last, a brand-loyal bear.

Life saving.

Fools, have faith in your stock picks. Have faith in the long term, because that's where Foolish riches lie. As Samuel Butler wrote, "You can do very little with faith, but you can do nothing without it."

Will someone please pass a blueberry muffin?