MIAMI, FL (Oct. 29, 1999) -- Is it that time of year already? Yes, yes, set your clocks an hour back over the weekend and stock up on treats so knee-high Pikachus and Snow Whites don't walk away angry. I'm not bitter. Really. I love Halloween. I love getting that extra hour of shut eye. I love being here, mostly. And by now I'm used to being here. This is the third year in a row in which I get to make sense of the market as it relates to Rule Breakerdom with Halloween around the corner. Last year I had portfolio stocks drop by, trick or treating in disguise. Two years ago I was a little less generous and went egging the Wise.
I think it's all just a ploy to keep me busy while David and Jeff go hit all the good candy houses first. That's okay. I have grown to appreciate sticky pennies, pre-chewed candy corn, and pocket lint leftovers.
Besides, it was a great day in the market. The Nasdaq shot up 3.2% while the S&P 500 rose a more modest 1.5%. The Rule Breaker was mixed, closing 1.14% higher.
America Online (NYSE: AOL) was a big winner after announcing a 2-for-1 stock split after yesterday's market close. That's the seventh time the company has had to give out an equity dividend to keep the price at a sane price point. It doesn't alter the fundamentals. If anything, all this marks is that AOL finally has as many splits as Elizabeth Taylor.
Unless my math is off, if AOL shares had never opted to split, the stock would have closed at $16,560, up $368 on the day. Nice.
eBeamer? Today, the first of BMW's new X5 sport utility vehicles went on the eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) auction block. The fresh wheels have already been bid up past $253,000. That is 4 1/2 times the sticker value but the premium is well spent since BMW is donating the proceeds to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
It's important to give -- especially after this rich bull market has given us so many opportunities to take.
But, speaking of take, today Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) suffered its fourth consecutive off day. Revenues soar. Losses widen. Forgotten in the tug of war here is the fact that we are now a few weeks into what Amazon expects to be the first profitable quarter for its domestic book division.
That is what puzzles me. Like trying to navigate a Rubik's Cube. Wearing thumb screws. Through a hedge maze. Underwater.
Wall Street seems to be saying that if Jeff Bezos would have drawn the line at books and gone no further, and cut back on marketing, we'd have a profitable e-tailer we could all embrace. Well, excuse me for holding back on the ticker tape during the underachiever parade.
Bezos knows what he is doing. Amazon customers stick around. This past quarter 72% of the orders came from repeat buyers. That is why every new customer is worth so much to go after. Today. That is why every new product line is crucial to the big picture. Today. Amazon customers stick around -- even if investors, for the time being, have chosen not to.
But, since you stuck around, and I'd be a schmuck if I didn't stick to tradition with a Halloween theme, I think I'll dig into a spooky classic. Inspired by this year's Fool Halloween Special, let's go with Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
"Ichahod Crane had a soft and Foolish heart... "
Foolish indeed. Ichabod was a schoolmaster. You'll be hard-pressed to find a profession more honorable than that of a teacher. My wife is a teacher. My sister, mother-in-law, brother-in-law -- all teachers. Some might even flatter me by calling me a teacher of sorts. But I'm not. I pride myself in being nothing more than a member of the safety patrol, tracking down those playing fiscal hooky. I do double duty as a crossing guard for the cross but nothing more.
Anyway, the irony of Ichabod is that the lanky lad was a capable teacher yet there were lessons he never got around to learning himself. He never saved his money. His food, lodging, and even his horse, Gunpowder, were all borrowed from kindhearted locals.
Maybe that is why he made for such easy prey the night the Wise chased him through Sleepy Hollow. That's right, it was the Wise galloping after him. Ichabod was hesitant. He was lost. He gripped the reins but he had no control over the Gunpowder he was riding.
The Headless Wiseman is, indeed, headless. Therefore brainless. Therefore thoughtless. But through practice, the ability to track down the innocents becomes systematic.
"If I can but reach that bridge," thought Ichabod, "I am safe."
The bridge could have been Ichabod's salvation. We are the bridge. We -- you, me, Fooldom -- are that bridge. And that's a pretty amazing thing. To serve as a structure that joins roads and crosses running water is an incredible vocation. Like a teacher. Like the honor of filling heads before they lose themselves.
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