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Contributed by Bill Bonner
Publisher of: The Fleet Street Letter

PARIS, FRANCE 
FRIDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2000 

 

Today:  American Peso

*** Gridlock...just what voters wanted - but more than 
expected. Is America a 'banana republic?' If so, how much 
is a peso, I mean a dollar, worth?

*** Deathwatch list grows... Is E-Bay sick too?

*** What do the best market timers think of this market?

*** Gridlock! That's what Americans really wanted from 
Washington. And that's what they got - even more than they 
expected. Americans elected at least one dead senator, an 
almost perfectly deadlocked Congress, and a president 
(whoever he is) disabled by ballot irregularities and 
election disputes.


*** Something always seems to go wrong on the road to 
perfection. The perfect, Goldilocks story of last January 
has turned into a different kind of fable. American 
triumphalism has been replaced by comic uncertainty in 
Washington...the U.S. economy has slowed down to a rate of 
growth no greater than in Europe...and the bears have come 
home and chased the Nasdaq down 21% since the beginning of 
the year.


*** The Nasdaq fell 31 points yesterday. It is down 40% 
from its high in March. 


*** The Deathwatch continues and the sick list grows. Dell 
announced its numbers after the close of business. Earnings 
were fine, but sales are growing at only a 20% rate. The 
stock fell $1.75. 


*** Investors have noticed that a good story is not enough. 
Neither is a good business. The stock has to be priced 
reasonably. 20% growth is fine for a company with a P/E of 
15. But not for Dell with its P/E of 41.


*** Early yesterday, the ECB intervened on the euro's 
behalf without much consequence. But later, Gore's campaign 
chief, Daley, and Jesse Jackson, meddler without portfolio, 
announced that a recount alone may not be good enough. This 
had a remarkable effect. The dollar promptly fell by 1.1 
cents against the euro. More below...


*** The euro was not the only thing to fall. The Dow also 
collapsed - 288 points. Prices came back after Warren 
Christopher reassured the world that Bill Clinton was still 
in the White House and would remain there until January 
20th, when a new president would take up residence.


*** "Banana Republic!" was how a Roman newspaper 
characterized the U.S. election process. In a Banana 
Republic, an incumbent president might decide to ignore a 
tainted vote. He would call for a new election, say, in 18 
months - and call out the National Guard to maintain order. 
Bill and Evita, I mean Hillary, Clinton wouldn't do that, 
would they?


*** The Dow ended the session down only 72 points, down 
5.8% for the year. There were 1086 advancing issues; 1730 
declining one. 57 stocks hit new highs on the NYSE; 51 hit 
new lows.


*** And it doesn't look good for today. "Friday looks 
grim," said one analyst - citing the reaction to Dell and 
the continued uncertainty of the election. Stocks fell in 
Asia this morning and the Financial Times thinks they will 
fall in Europe too. But who knows?


*** Oil rose to nearly $34 in Asian trading. Traders fear a 
cold winter with tight supplies. Long-term, though, experts 
say producers are pumping 2 million barrels per day more 
than the market can take up.


*** Gold rose 80 cents. 


*** Mark Hulbert reports that his five top-rated markets 
timers - newsletter gurus with the best records for 
predicting market direction - are bearish, though none has 
pulled 100% out of stocks. Bob Brinker recommends a 65% 
cash position. No-Load Fund Investor Sheldon Jacobs is 
similarly only 35% invested in stocks. Value Line and the 
PAD System's Dan Seiver, meanwhile, recommend having half 
your money in stocks. Only one of the 5 best market-timers, 
Michael Burke of Investors Intelligence, recommends being 
fully invested in equities. 


*** Looking at sentiment, Hulbert found that advisors who 
concentrate on the Nasdaq have become very pessimistic - 
which he looks at from a contrarian viewpoint. "Bearishness 
in the Nasdaq," he observes, "may have become so 
pessimistic that a wall of worry now firmly is in place for 
a Nasdaq rally to resume."


*** Are we in a bear market? Of course, it depends on which 
market you look at. "If a bear market is defined as a 
decline of at least 20% from the indices high point," 
writes Ray DeVoe, "the Nasdaq's 35.8% decline from March 
10, 2000 level...would qualify. The Dow Industrials would 
have to close below 9,378 to qualify as a bear market 
according to that widely held standard." (see: Rich Beyond 
The Dream Of Avarice
)


*** In response to my "when investors will meet their 
Waterloo" question, William Fleckenstein:


[Referring to the election] "Personally, I had hoped we 
wouldn't head down this path. It is fraught with risk and 
is exactly the kind of unanticipated event that can 
undermine the currency and the stock market. Given the 
absurd valuations of stocks, the weakening economy and 
earnings problems, this could be a real Waterloo for the 
market. We shall have to see, but folks should be on red 
alert." (see: Split Decision Makes For Unpoetic Injustice)


*** And this recent experience with a dot.com, from Steve 
Sjuggerud: "If personal experience is any indication, 
eBay's online auction monopoly could be in trouble... 
Cleaning out my garage on eBay, I've actually made many 
thousands of dollars on junk. On Sunday alone, I sold two 
musical items gathering dust for $2,500. I know what 
they're worth, and I started these two particular Sunday 
auctions at a dollar, just to get rid of them. So I'm a 
satisfied eBay customer.


"But now, apparently eBay's patchwork programming is 
finally catching up with them. I've got five more things 
out of my garage on eBay that haven't seen bids in days. 
One item, top-notch wireless stereo headphones which should 
easily fetch $75 or more, hasn't seen a bid yet, and it's 
listed for $1. I went in to figure out why, and found that 
I COULDN'T BID ON ANYTHING RIGHT NOW EVEN IF I WANTED TO.


"No word from eBay on this situation. Trying to find 
customer service or tech support online, I quickly found 
out that there is none. Here's a quote from their tech 
support message board - the only place where you can get
support, run by users, not the company (this quote from a 
thread with over 600 "where-are-you-eBay?" complaints):


"I would have never thought of leaving my beloved eBay. I 
have been a huge fan...buyer and seller since May of 1999. 
But I too am exhausted over the problems. Sad to say, I am 
taking my auctions to yahoo also. I use this as income.... 
I can't afford the problems and with zero customer 
support... well I am just a small fish that I am sure eBay 
won't miss. I have some auctions on now but once again 
(this month)....all of a sudden...the photos aren't
loading and I am going to have to sell items at a loss. I 
can't afford eBay anymore."


"EBay is at a P/E of 515," Steve concludes ominously, "And 
customers are unhappy." Another candidate for the sick 
list...


* * * * * * * * * * Advertisement * * * * * * * * * * * *

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GET OUT OF BIG TECH! 

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Oracle - you name a tech darling - we'll show you how far 
they will fall...

This week's carnage: Oracle down 6.59%, Cisco down 
8.15%, Intel down 7.58%, and Sun - nearly a perfect 
10 - down 9.98%.

Trouble is, you may own these stocks and not even 
know it. If you still haven't - now is the time to 
check your 'retirement' money. Will it be there when 
the bear is done mauling?

Your FREE report: "While The Nasdaq Burns" will tell you 
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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


AMERICAN PESO


"So...who eez zee president ov zee Yooo Esss? Ha ha..."


Addison and I were having lunch at a crowded little 
restaurant near the Pompidou Center, not far from our 
office. The words quoted above were delivered by a man with 
gray hair who leaned over towards us, after hearing us 
speaking with our American accents.


In the space of just a few days, America has gone from 
being on top of the world...to its laughing stock. 


"Like Italy!"


Thus did a headline echo the thoughts of a bar owner in 
Rome.


Count on the foreign press to get the story wrong. In 
Italy, governments come and go. Civilized Italians don't 
take politics very seriously. They ignore their leaders and 
cheat on their taxes. 


America is completely different. Americans pay their taxes 
and pay attention to politics as if it mattered. 


But a Roman newspaper, La Republica, elaborated:
"The first election of the new millennium," said the 
Italian editorialist, "has brought America into the realm 
of the surreal."


Newspapers, the chattering classes, and bar owners all over 
the world are enjoying the public spectacle of U.S. 
presidential politics. One of the dullest election 
campaigns in generations - with two candidates no one 
really cared much about...one without a heart and one 
without a brain (as the media characterized them) - has 
been transformed in its final hours into one of the most 
exciting collective dramas of our day.


A Russian web-site jokes that the "latest reports show 
Vladimir Putin in the lead." 


"Banana Republic" said La Republica... Yes, "it does sound 
very Mexican" said a political scientist named Federico 
Estevez.


Lynn Carpenter set my brain to work yesterday with an 
offhand comment on the dollar. I cannot quote her, because 
I cannot remember exactly what she said, so I will make up 
a quote:


"All currencies," she did not say, "including gold and 
silver, are features of the collective imagination. Their 
only value comes from what people en masse believe them to 
be worth."


In the world's collective imagination, the U.S. has become 
a subject of ridicule. The question I pose today: Will its 
currency become a joke one day, too?


Like most of the rest of the world's press, Die Welt has it 
backwards: "It's not a cheap detective novel, not a soap 
opera, but a debacle that could turn into a comedy."


Quite the contrary, dear reader, the presidential elections 
are a farce that could turn into a disaster.


This is not the first time an election was close. Nor is it 
the first time an election turned on a small number of 
disputed votes. In November, 2000, the voters of Missouri 
elected a dead man. But in November 40 autumns ago, dead 
voters probably elected a live president. 


That was when John Kennedy beat Richard Nixon, thanks 
perhaps to the deceased voters of Chicago. Some campaign 
managers are better than others, of course. And no one 
could get out the vote in Chicago like Mayor and Kennedy- 
supporter Richard Daley. So effective were his efforts that 
even the corpses of people long dead managed to cast their 
votes. And people still among the quick were so animated by 
civic responsibility that they decided to vote more than 
once!


Daley has left office to join the dead voters of Cook 
County, but his son, William, is the head of Al Gore's 
campaign. Yesterday, Mr. Daley joined with Warren 
Christopher and fellow Cook County voter Jesse Jackson to 
proclaim that although "we do not intend to provoke a 
constitutional crisis..." simply recounting the votes may 
not be enough. "This is the start of a process," said 
Daley. 


What process? Where does it lead? No one quite knows. 


Richard Nixon discussed the 1960 election in his memoires. 
He might have contested the results, but "the effect could 
be devastating to America's foreign relations..." Al Gore 
may not have quite the same reluctance to challenge the 
election. 


The value of the dollar - like a dot.com stock or a 
candidate's intelligence - rests on nothing more than a 
collective illusion... They are worth what we, en masse, 
are willing to give them. 


So far this year, the triumphalism with which the U.S. 
marched into the new millennium has begun to yield - to 
doubt, chaos and losses. The U.S. economy no longer appears 
to be so miraculous. Growth rates have fallen. There are 
signs of distress in several areas - from falling 
inventories of heating oil to rising personal bankruptcies. 
Nasdaq stocks are down 40% from their highs, while the 
leading sectors - techs and dot.coms - have been crushed. 
Only the dollar, so far, has resisted the general retreat.


But even the dollar seems to be giving ground. It hit an 
all-time low against the euro of 82 cents in October. Now a 
euro is 86 cents. I don't know any better than anyone else 
what will happen... but the collective illusion that 
supports the dollar has been weakened. And the smart money 
is probably hedging its bets - buying assets with their 
roots in other currencies, other places and other 
illusions. 


Your reporter, watching the U.S. elections and the dollar 
from the other side of the Atlantic,


Bill Bonner


P.S. How big a debacle might the election chaos cause? 


Life has a funny way of going in directions you don't 
expect. Just when things seem to be going well - boom, 
something unexpected happens. That, as I have pointed out, 
is what happened in the 20th century. It began as the most 
promising century of all time. But the Archduke Ferdinand's 
driver took a wrong turn in Sarajevo...touching off a 
series of events and catastrophes that resulted in the 
deaths of 100 million people over a 75 year period. At one 
point, more than half the world's people - and half its 
landmass - were under the control of murderous regimes with 
no sense of humor, nor any concept of property rights. 
Could the Palm Beach ballots be the 21st century's 
equivalent of a wrong turn in Sarajevo?


There are trillions of dollars worth of bad investments 
that have been made in the last few years. In other 
letters, for example, I've estimated that U.S. equity 
prices might represent $5 - $10 trillion in wealth that 
exists only on paper. Sooner or later, this 'wealth' is 
going to disappear. Gently...or not-so-gently. A sharp 
decline in the dollar could bring about a very hard landing 
of U.S. stocks and the economy...causing widespread anger 
and bitterness. Who knows what the ultimate consequences 
might be?
 
 
 
 
About The Daily Reckoning:
The Daily Reckoning... "more sense in one e-mail than a month of CNBC."  That's what readers are saying about The Daily Reckoning.

Bill Bonner, recognized internationally as a brilliant writer, entrepreneur
and publisher of The Fleet Street Letter, offers you his daily market
commentary absolutely FREE. For the first time, outsiders are getting a peek into his powerful and profitable investment insights. Bill's practical contrarian advice empowers even average investors to protect their hard-earned wealth and achieve amazing gains.

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..

For nearly 62 year, The Fleet Street Letter, the oldest investment
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invaluable economic and political foresights to savvy investors. Current readers regularly enjoy impressive investment gains even as the market falters. Here's more from his online readers...

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