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Contributed by Bill Bonner
Publisher of: The Fleet Street Letter

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA 
FRIDAY, 6 OCTOBER 2000 

 

Today:  Las Vegas

*** Wealth effect shifts into 'R'... William Shattner 
looking for work...
*** The world according to Wim... Thank heavens, someone 
is watching the oil supply and "doing what seems 
indicated"...
*** Slot machines in hell...strategic plastic 
surgery...and so much more...

*** The wealth effect has gone seriously into reverse. 
The Nasdaq is down 15% for the year. In very round 
numbers, that's about an $800 billion loss. And the 
additional cost of oil is estimated to be about $161 
billion. 


*** The big question, of course, is whether the drop in 
the tech stocks represents a buying opportunity. Al 
Frank, perhaps the best stock picker in America, thinks 
so:


"With each day's irrational overreactions," he says, 
"more and deeper bargains are created. I like to think of 
myself as not greedy, but I feel like I am in a going-
out-of-business candy store with much or the merchandise 
marked way down for immediate sale. I believe that in 
less than a year we will look back at this time, 
comparing it with early October 1998 and other almost
unbelievable bargain periods, wishing we had more cash or
more faith in value investing to pick up more of the
distressed selling."


*** Maybe. But it seems more likely that Mr. Bear is 
merely correcting three years' worth of irrational 
overreactions on the upside...and he has a lot more work 
to do before his job is done. 


*** Yesterday, the Nasdaq slumped 51 to 3,472, returning 
to the downtrend it started four days ago. Dell already 
trading below its 52-week low, fell another $2.63.


*** "People are worried about a slowdown in demand for 
the high-priced, high-growth stocks of technology 
companies. They're looking for... investments," said an 
investment strategist in a Reuter's article. What a novel 
idea for the stock market: investing. 


*** Still, the Dow, an index where you might presumably 
find a few companies in which it is worth investing 
closed down 60 to 10,724. 1549 stocks finished lower; 
1261 higher.


*** The S&P 500 rose just shy of 2 points to close 1,436.


*** Priceline.com closed down its "name-your-price" 
program for gasoline and groceries... their stock closed 
down $3. William Shattner couldn't be reached for 
comment.


*** Gold rose 40 cents... and despite the ECB's finest 
intentions, the euro dropped to $.86 against the US 
dollar. 


*** Yesterday, just days after the Fed met and decided to 
keep US rates unchanged, the European Central Bank rose 
rates by a quarter point. In the world according to Wim 
(Duisenberg), tighter credit would create the best 
conditions for "continuing robust growth" in Europe. But 
the hike seems to have had the immediate and exact 
opposite effect. What's more, it has undone what 
European, American and Japanese central banks thought 
they achieved on Sept. 22 when they bought euros en 
masse.


*** Oil prices rebounded a bit from Thursday's dip - up 
35 cents to $30.88 a barrel. Prices had dropped 90 cents 
on Bill Clinton's announcement that the 30 million 
barrels released from the US strategic reserves would be 
awarded to 11 lucky oil companies...


*** "I do think we're going to have enough supplies to 
get through winter," the leader of the free world, and 
part-time logistical-supply specialist, was reported by 
Reuter's to have said on Thursday. "I'm just going to 
watch it every day and do what seems indicated." In the 
meantime, he said he wants the oil delivered to consumers 
quickly. 


*** Whew, thank god... Clinton is watching the oil supply 
and getting it delivered quickly. Imagine what all those 
companies - those men and women who earn their livings 
day-in, day-out delivering oil to consumers - would do if 
they didn't have the president telling them to "get it 
there quickly."


*** High fuel prices have ignited strikes in Argentina 
this past week, too. Strikers there won the battle to 
have taxes reduced. But oil demand - outstripping 
delivery capacity worldwide - continues to enervate tax 
collectors... as prices rise, it becomes increasingly 
obvious to consumers how much gouging is really going on 
- on the way to the pump. 


*** This winter's "crisis" in the industrial world may 
just be the beginning of huge increases in the demand for 
oil worldwide. According to Marc Faber, "demand for oil 
is exploding in the emerging economies - especially in 
Asia." 


*** "Crude oil demand in China has doubled since 1992 to 
4.4 million barrels per day," says Faber. "Asia including 
Japan now consumes almost as much crude oil as the US. 
But consider this: Asia has more than 3 billion people, 
whereas the US has a population of only 265 million. In 
other words, while in the US per capita oil consumption 
is more than 24 barrels per year, in the case of emerging 
Asia it is less than two barrels. 


*** "If all the global healing apostles and all the Asian 
bulls are right," Faber concludes, "then oil demand is 
likely to explode there over the next two years." (see: 
Contrarian Profits From High Prices At The Pump)


*** Electricity and coal, too are increasingly in short 
supply. The "United States GDP and electricity demand 
have risen dramatically together, both up 60% since 
1975," Dan Ferris tells me. "The Energy Information 
Administration's current forecast says electricity demand 
will continue to follow GDP growth through 2020. Why is 
this important? Coal - king coal - has tracked these 
increases impressively. Since 1970, coal demand by public 
electric utilities has risen 173%." 


*** Ferris has selected one company in particular he 
believes you should own if you want to take advantage of 
the dramatic rise in electricity usage brought on by the 
information age... (see: The Internet's Dirty Secret
Part 4)


*** Yesterday Addison told you about our agreement with 
Grant's. As a reader of the Daily Reckoning you've be 
invited to receive a free trial subscription to the 
GrantsInvestor.com website. Today, he tells me the link 
he provided for you... well, it didn't work. So he's 
posed an alternative. If you'd like to accept Grant's 
offer, go to the GrantsInvestor home page.

Where it says "Received An Invitation?" type in this 
reservation number: 107202149.


*** Today in 1889 the Moulin Rouge - the cabaret most 
famed for attracting millions of Americans who believe it 
is the quintessential Paris - first opened its doors. 
Clichy, the neighborhood in which you'll find it... is 
rife with bums, neon lights and tourist buses... but 
there are no slot machines. More below.


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LAS VEGAS


I can look out my hotel room and see the Eiffel Tower, as 
I mentioned yesterday. Or the day before, I can't 
remember. In any case, it is right down the road from an 
Egyptian obelisk. 


What a city! There is a giant concrete sphinx...a glass 
Egyptian pyramid...another pyramid modeled after the 
Mayan form...a replica of what appears to be Angor Wat... 
a fairytale castle and the statue of liberty all within 
walking distance.


Not to be upstaged by the wonders of the ancient world, 
there is a huge TV screen set up on the marquis of MGM's 
"City of Entertainment" colossus nearby. Even at a 
distance of a quarter of a mile I can watch various news 
clips and other attractions designed to lure me into the 
MGM play world. Further down the street, there is a 
smaller version of the Chrysler Building echoing the 
Manhattan skyline...and the Seattle space tower off to 
the right.


All of these architectural calamities are part of the 
world of illusion that is Las Vegas, making it America's 
premier New Era city. Here, as in the rest of Nasdaq 
Nation, gaudy wealth knows no limits. 


The city is remarkable - spread out in the desert for no 
reason other than there doesn't seem to be anything to 
stop it. It sits in an empty stretch of barren, hot 
ground. Neither mountains, rivers, arable farmland, 
borders, good taste, laws, modesty, money or dignity have 
stood in its way. 


People from all over the world come to gawk in wonder - 
as they also do at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the real 
pyramids in Egypt. A Japanese couple walked through the 
lobby of the Four Seasons yesterday. They seemed stunned, 
shell-shocked. They walked nervously, as if they had 
accidentally taken a wrong turn and ended up in an 
amusement park in hell.


All around them clusters of shiny slot machines rang, 
clicked, hummed and buzzed. Dreary-eyed retirees and 
vacationers from Gary, Indiana, hunched over the 
whirring, flashing lights, occasionally raising their 
right arms to feed tokens into the infernal machines.


The gamblers did seem to be having a good time. But, who 
could fail to enjoy himself in a town that is like a 
giant circus - running 24-hours a day?


As soon as you get off the airplane, you're greeted by 
slot machines. I don't know of any other airport in the 
world that offers people a chance to get rich while 
waiting for their connecting flight.


Quick and easy is the name of the game in Las Vegas. The 
city was originally home to miners who hoped to strike it 
rich...and then a boomtown when the Hoover Dam was built.


Quickie divorce laws offered people a fast way to undo 
past mistakes. No-wait marriages gave them an opportunity 
to make new ones. 


But what really put Las Vegas on the map was gambling, 
air-conditioning and low-cost air travel. You can get 
here cheaply and gamble in comfort. As a result, Las 
Vegas is now twice a big as Baltimore...and growing fast. 


And the gaudier and more bombastic it gets - the more 
people like it. They are drawn to it the way a crowd 
gathers around an auto wreck - greedy for cultural 
mayhem.


A friend of mine took us up to show us the suite of rooms 
he is occupying on the top floor of the Mandalay Bay 
building. The luxury apartment is furnished in expensive 
medium-hip style with a vaguely oriental motif. It 
overlooks the city at night - with a spectacular view of 
its bright lights reaching out for miles in every 
direction. 


"No one pays to stay here," he explained. This was an 
accommodation given free to high rollers - who come to 
Vegas and lose big sums of money.


In fact, you get a lot for your money in Las Vegas. Even 
for those who are not big spenders, hotel rooms that 
would cost $300 in other cities - are just $150. Low room 
rates are a little like penny stocks - they give the 
illusion of a bargain. Ordinary people feel a bit like 
high rollers themselves - and spend their money as if 
they were Midwestern Trumps or California Icahns. 


Gambling is not a bad way to lose money. Our host last 
night told us that his father had won $500,000 gambling 
back in the '60s - real money back then. And one of the 
casinos advertises that it returns 96.5% of the money put 
into its slots. That gives investors, I mean gamblers, an 
average loss of only 3.5%, for as long as they choose to 
play.


Nasdaq gamblers, by contrast, have already lost about 4 
times that much this year - and none got a free room or a 
floor show. Las Vegas at least gives its clients the 
illusion that they are having a good time. 


Not only do the buildings in Vegas pretend to be 
something they are not, the people are phonies too. One 
club advertises that it is the home of Elvis imitators... 
"endorsed by Elvis-O-Rama," no less. Another offers 
people impersonating stars such as Madonna, Gloria 
Estefan and Charlie Daniels. Why people would want to see 
these stars in person, let alone their imposters, is 
never explained. There is even a special guest appearance 
by Michael Colby, whoever he is, pretending to be Ricky 
Martin, whoever he is.


And no entertainment fraud would be complete without 
someone passing himself off as Michael Jackson - a role 
Mr. Jackson usually claims for himself. 


Meanwhile, I see that Wayne Newton is still alive in 
Vegas - pretending to be immune to aging. And Rodney 
Dangerfield is still at the Hollywood Theatre. Thank God 
Barbra Streisand has moved on.


There are also a number of prestidigitators and animal 
acts, offering their own illusions. And a number of clubs 
offer adult shows, such as 'Booty Magic' and 'Crazy 
Girls.' If I were sticking around for a few days, I would 
certainly want to catch the 'Midnight Fantasy' at the 
Luxor.


We had dinner last night in the House of Blues restaurant 
on the top of Mandalay Bay. The d‚cor might be described 
as Early Hippie Nightmare...or Bad Trip Chic. The walls 
were covered with fabric from India. Bright red, orange, 
yellow and blue, studded with bits of glass and bauble, 
it reminded me of a San Francisco head shop from the 
'60s. The retro-effect was heightened by incense burning 
in a statue of Buddha that stood at the doorway...all it 
lacked was Ravi Shankar on the sitar in the background. 


In addition to the Buddha, there were various bits and 
pieces that looked as though they had been looted from 
Hindu temples - including what looked like an entire 
miniature temple, complete with elephant heads and 
dancing female figures. But all the major religions were 
represented - there was also a Madonna and Child painting 
hanging in the corridor on the way to the bathroom.


Another restaurant in the Mandalay Bay complex offers 
thrill seekers a central wine storage column 3 stories 
high. When you order a bottle of wine, a woman is 
strapped into a harness and hoisted up the column to 
retrieve the wine.


Everything is fast and easy in Las Vegas. A friend of 
mine met a beautiful young woman last night. Learning 
that he was a plastic surgeon, she hiked up her skirt to 
show the work she had done on her left buttock.


"Can you do better than that?" she asked.


"Uh..." replied my friend, taken by surprise, "I don't 
know. Let me see the other one."


Your reporter...just telling you what I see and hear...


Bill Bonner
 
 
 
 
About The Daily Reckoning:
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Bill Bonner, recognized internationally as a brilliant writer, entrepreneur
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Bonner writes his email letter from Paris, France, each morning --
describing the wacky, wonderful world of investment, politics and everything remotely related. Irreverent. Sharp. Honest. Thoroughly, unabashedly contrarian. It's also among the fastest growing e-letter on the Internet.  It's a brand new service... but it has a distinguished history..

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