As last it's Halloween! Come to think of it, shouldn't you be minding that cadre of ghosts and goblins loitering just beyond the porch light?

If you're wearing a bull suit, you've much to celebrate tonight. Since we last donned our Foolish masks (in public anyway), owning stocks has been an absolute treat. The trick is knowing where we go from here.

Enjoy it while you can. The holiday, we mean: In France, people have had it with tricks or treats. According to the Associated Press, "Le Halloween looks set to perform its very own disappearing act." Perhaps now we've heard le everything!

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Microsoft to Buy Google?

The New York Times reported this morning that software king Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) and search giant Google have been exploring the idea of a partnership -- or even a merger.

Such a deal makes sense, especially for Microsoft. It's been wanting to grab a slice of the lucrative search business that captures advertising dollars on a pay-per-click basis. It could jump into the market on its own, or just go with the existing marquee name. Google, along with Yahoo!-owned rival Overture(Nasdaq: YHOO), dominates the pay-per-click market.

The Times article, citing unnamed company executives, says Google probably prefers to pass on the deal for now, figuring an initial public offering makes more sense. The company does have to keep one thing in mind, however: What would happen to the value of its IPO if Microsoft announced intentions of entering the market in a big way?

In the meantime, consider what might happen if the deal does go through.

Top 10 Implications of Microsoft Buying Google

10. Free worm with every search.

9. Google renamed "Microoosoooft."

8. Google becomes default search engine on all computers; attempts to use Yahoo! causes PCs to emit a pungent odor.

7. The search choices on Google will change from "Web," "Images," "Groups," "Directory," and "News" to "Web," "Shop Microsoft," "Buy From Microsoft Because You Have No Choice," and "Steve Ballmer Dancing."

6. Google Image Search will not show Microsoft's dark side.

5. All searches on the term "Steve Jobs" will return bios on Art Garfunkel, Ike Turner, Burt Ward (a.k.a. Robin), and other second fiddles.

4. Long speeches from Bill Gates about how "Smart Appliances" will allow owners to use Google to search for what's in their fridge. When pressed, Gates admits such appliances are only available in his mansion, and that he's never actually seen his refrigerator.

3. Microsoft uses Google technology to search for weapons of monopolistic destruction.

2. All searches on the term "Larry Ellison" will produce lists of garbage-collection websites.

1. "Bill Gates is richer than Warren Buffett" subliminally inserted into all search results.

Quote of Note

"I seated ugliness on my knee, and almost immediately grew tired of it." -- Salvador Dali

Cisco Disco

There was a moment in time, brief as it was, that Cisco(Nasdaq: CSCO) possessed the country's largest market capitalization. Between Microsoft's(Nasdaq: MSFT) antitrust struggles and General Electric's(NYSE: GE) comeuppance, there was Cisco -- king of the hill.

At its peak back in the spring of 2000, the tech bellwether was worth four times as much as it is today. That's painful news to those who have held on to the stock after its glorious run through the 1990s. However, recent shareholders certainly aren't smarting. The stock has doubled over the past 13 months. So whether the stock is overbought or oversold is simply a matter of timeframe and perspective.

Either way, both halves of the glass will be listening in earnest when the networking and communications giant posts its fiscal first-quarter results on Wednesday afternoon. Profits more than doubled in fiscal 2003 despite flat revenues. While margin and earnings improvement is always welcome, the top line needs to improve. Until annual sales top the $22.3 billion mark generated three years ago, it will be hard to brand Cisco a turnaround story -- much less a growth stock.

Also reporting earnings next week will be Gillette(NYSE: G), Kellogg(NYSE: K), and the kindler and gentler Tyco(NYSE: TYC). So arm yourself with smooth razors, Froot Loops, and your finest Dennis Kozlowski jokes. Because Cisco is coming, but it's not coming alone.

Discussion Board of the Day: Cisco

How do you think Cisco will make out when it posts its fiscal first-quarter results on Wednesday? Is the stock overvalued, undervalued, or in the ballpark of fair valuation? All this and more -- on the Cisco discussion board. Only on

Gotta Pay to Trade

Only you know what is important to you as an investor -- how often you trade, what level of customer service meets your needs. Only you can decide what investments are right for you and how often -- and by what means -- you need to check up on your little darlings.

Online brokerages come in three general flavors:

  • Super-cheap brokers that charge from $4 to $12 per trade. These are best used by those who plan on trading very frequently, but satisfactory for buy-and-hold investors as well.
  • Mid-priced brokers that charge between $12 and $20 per trade. These brokers justify slightly higher prices with more well-known brand names, and possibly additional services.
  • High-priced brokers that charge more than $20 per trade, typically around $29.95 per trade. (They think $30 trades sound too high, so they knock off a nickel -- but we're not fooled.)

As with many things in life, cheaper is not always better. We know you've probably figured that out, but the price per trade at a discount broker may also indicate the level of customer service that comes with it.

Still, pay attention to costs, since all those fees are what can whittle away at your stunning portfolio returns. You can get a good idea of what we find important as far as additional fees are concerned in this comparison chart of our broker sponsors. Beyond the trading commissions, you'll find that brokerages may charge other fees, including:

  • fees for transferring assets into the account
  • fees for closing an account
  • IRA custodian fees
  • wire transfer fees
  • account inactivity fees
  • annual fees
  • fees for not maintaining a minimum balance

Again, know thyself, investor, and you won't end up paying for services you don't need.

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More Fool News

For a list of all our stories from today, see Today's Headlines.

And Finally...

Today on, if you want to know what it takes to battle -- and beat the rich Goliaths in this world, Rick Munarriz has the answers in Finding Marlins.... David and Tom Gardner explore the The Future of Netflix with its CEO, Reed Hastings.... We've also got some questions we'd like answers to: Am I Early or Wrong?, Is CVS Eyeing Eckerd?, and Is Solar Hot? And for the organized Fool in you, Year-End Tax Planning.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Paul Elliott, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Alyce Lomax, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Dave Marino-Nachison, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim