Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, February 8, 1999

Yippie! Yikes!
and Uh Oh! Inc.

WHY do names of stocks burning up the markets right now sound more like Saturday morning cartoons than billion-dollar financial Goliaths?

Yahoo!, for instance. Yahoo! is an Internet web site whose shares have shot up faster than the Wile E. Cayote with an Acme rocket pack. It's annoying for a company to put an exclamation point at the end of its name. You can't end a sentence with the company name without appearing unduly enthused. Example: Share prices down for Yahoo! Share prices up for Yahoo! See? Doesn't matter which way you go, there's implied fervor.

Yahoo! is just one of the Internet companies that are worth a zillion dollars right now. It's one of the web sites you have to go to first to find all the important Internet porno sites. Well, you don't have to. But it makes it easier.

It's odd. Yahoo! has an exclamation point, but the web site company called Excite doesn't. What's wrong with those guys at Excite? Aren't they excited?

I've invested a few bucks in Excite and I have to say, it's been, well, exciting! It goes up and down so fast you can get whiplash just watching the CNN ticker. You get into the shower feeling like J. Paul Getty and get out of the shower feeling like Minnie the Moocher. You have to have nerves of steel for this market. That, or brains of tofu.

The names of the companies involved don't help investor confidence much. Yahoo!, Excite, eBay, Egghead ... what's next? Yeehaaa! Eeegad! and Yabba Dabba Doo!?

Do you really want to buy several hundred shares of Geek? You can. That's the ticker symbol for a company called Internet America, another high-flyer in the Nasdaq these days. But how will you explain to your kids 20 years from now that you made or lost your fortune on a stock called Geek?

THE Nasdaq, by the way, is where all this market madness takes place these days. Nasdaq (pronounced the way it sounds when you sneeze with a mouthful of Rice Krispies and half of them go out through your nose) is the stock market code name for the National Association of Silly Companies That Only Crazy People Would Invest In. Just kidding. It actually stands for National Association of Securities Dealers, although someone apparently slipped in an "a" and a "q" after the closing bell.

If the stock market were a family Thanksgiving dinner, the New York Stock Exchange would be the adult table and the Nasdaq would be where all the kids sit and have food fights. That's a simplification, but not much. The Nasdaq is where a lot of the young, happening Internet and technology stocks hang out drinking margaritas. These companies are composed of electrons, largely hypothetical and cocky rich.

The New York Stock Exchange is where you find the venerable old "brick and mortar" companies with nice trustworthy solid names like General Motors and International Business Machines. If one of these goes up three quarters of a point, all the stodgy old securities brokers slap each other on the back and break out the cigars.

Over at the Nasdaq, stocks lurch 30 or 40 points up or down every few hours, causing the brokers to gulp down Dramamine by the handful.

Investing in the New York Stock Exchange is like making out on an overstuffed couch in a comfy den. Investing in the Nasdaq is like having sex during a car crash.

So, there's your stock market primer for the day. I endorse none of the companies mentioned, which, considering my track record, will likely appreciate. I just can't figure out why they call these things "securities."

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or

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