Nov 17, 2000 at 12:00AM
If the stock market existed in the land of fairy tales, whatever we wished for would come true. Every company added to our investment portfolio would generate lavish riches, and we'd live giddily in the land of happily ever after.
If wishes came true, the presidential election turmoil would end with all Americans living in peace and harmony. Candidates Bush and Gore would put aside their differences about Social Security, the budget, and ballot chads, and lead this country as co-presidents. Their differing proposals would evolve into compromises benefiting all citizens, no matter their income level or political beliefs, and Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman would walk into the sunset to start a band together.
If wishes came true, Fed Chairman Greenspan would lower interest rates, the stock market would reach new highs daily, inflation would become a distant memory, and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) would instantly become profitable.
We don't live in a Grimm's fairy tale, but a grim reality. It's November 17, 2000 and election results will likely be decided in the courts, leaving our next president with the difficult challenge of leading a divided country.
The Federal Reserve decided on Wednesday to maintain interest rates, and adhered firmly to its continuing inflation warnings, against the wishes of investors. And, it will take more than one big holiday season to make Amazon.com profitable.
Then again, wishes can come true.
"Let us take things as we find them: let us not attempt to distort them into what they are not. We cannot make facts. All our wishing cannot change them. We must use them." --John Henry, Cardinal Newman
As Rule Breaking investors, we consciously take on a great deal of risk in the belief that such well-reasoned risk will lead to high reward. We wish our companies well, but wishing and hoping isn't enough. Therefore, we must continually scrutinize our companies as they evolve, which, as Rule Breakers, is an exciting and necessary process. When facts don't support our wishes, we must analyze our companies' potential, and determine whether a short-term negative fact could be a hindrance to our long-term investing wishes. This is the situation with Amazon.com, a Rule Breaking company we still believe in.
Almost as exciting as Presidential Indecision 2000 is America Online's (NYSE: AOL) proposed merger with Time Warner (NYSE: TWX). Every day, uncertainty grows as the wishes of each company's management are confronted by new obstacles to making the merger come true.
The Federal Trade Commission recently demanded that the companies sign a cable-access deal with competing Internet Service Providers as a pre-condition of approval. The chance of this occurring quickly is about as likely as Al Gore inviting Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris over for Thanksgiving dinner.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that Time Warner and AOL are showing signs of disagreement over how the challenges should be handled. Is there permanent trouble in media paradise, or just a passing lover's quarrel?
While Time Warner has been talking with both EarthLink Inc. (Nasdaq: ELNK) and Juno Online Services (Nasdaq: JWEB), no deal is close to being completed. Even if Time Warner does strike a deal with an ISP, and the FTC approves the merger, the Federal Communications Commission must then review it. Instant gratification is often impossible in merger land. I'm pretty sure we'll have a new president long before we have a final decision on this deal. Well... fairly sure.
"Between the wish and the thing, life lies waiting." --Unknown
Investors pursue their dreams while concurrently living their lives, continuously confronted by uncertainty and agitation. Often, these uncertainties cause them to question their long-term investing commitments. Two days after the election non-results, a pundit on CNBC recommended, "When in doubt -- sell."
When in doubt... sell?
Foolish investors wish to buy and sell from positions of strength. If in doubt, why do anything at all? As Rule Breakers, we focus on our investing goals and avoid the pitfalls of following the whims of momentum. Investing isn't like channel surfing; we don't hold on to a stock for a few seconds, only to replace it when we become bored or think that another stock must be greener. We're always seeking breakthrough industries and their top dogs for new investments.
But, if we channel surfed our portfolio whenever we had momentary doubt, we'd have bailed out of our holdings at the first commercial break. If that had been our investing style, we would've been in and out of Amazon and AOL more frequently than Florida authorities change their minds on what is and isn't a valid ballot count.
Finally, all wishes, even investing ones, must include a prince. Rule Breakers are no exception. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, perhaps the world's wealthiest person outside the U.S., is a staunch long-term investor who lives happily ever after by holding investments for a minimum of 10 years if he has confidence in the company's strategy. Not surprisingly, his portfolio consists of Rule Breakers America Online (NYSE: AOL), Amazon.com, and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY). Could he be a Rule Breaker? Then again, he's also bullish on Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN), which shows that even multi-billionaire princes can be big-time dreamers.
I only wish I could do a hand-count of his billions.
- Nov 17, 2000 at 12:00AM