COMMENTARY -- Technology investors can give thanks for...
The bull market run. Yes, 2000 has been lousy for the indices, but only compared to the five years previous. Most folks heavily invested in the stock market for at least two years are still way ahead of where they started.
The Nasdaq Composite Index remains up 54 percent from November 1998. Inflation over that same period has been almost negligible. All things considered, the market has turned in a performance for which we should all be grateful.
Thinning of the dot-bomb ranks. Investors lost oodles of money on Web content and online retail plays, but that happens at the dawn of every industry.
The bodies of the corporate fallen fertilize the landscape with experienced talent and ideas to fuel the survivors' growth. Just as important, the demise of weak business models focuses attention and dollars on the good ones, and forces the latter to provide better value for customers.
Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) can't scoop the easy dot-com advertising anymore; it has to prove itself to the more demanding Old Economy companies. Ultimately, you'll have a stronger advertising base, which translates into steadier profits and hopefully more reliable stock returns.
Biotechs. Pump-and-dump traders' ranks may have been reduced in recent quarters, but they'll never disappear entirely. High tech investors should be glad momentum players lately have focused their ludicrous games on the cutting-edge health sector; maybe they'll stay away from IT.
This year's Dallas Cowboys. Feeling bad about your portfolio? Feel better knowing that it's no uglier than what the Minnesota Vikings are likely to do to the Cowboys tomorrow. And be thankful that -- unlike Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman behind that battered offensive line -- you're not in grave danger of Thanksgiving brain damage.
Cisco. No, not for this year's stock performance, which has dragged along with the rest of the market. But the success of Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) in corporate routers and switches inspired and scared others to accelerate their move into the optical space.
Rather than stifling new networking technologies, Cisco's dominance in the corporate arena has spurred companies like Redback Networks (Nasdaq: RBAK) and Juniper Networks (Nasdaq: JNPR). The drive of Cisco into the carrier space keeps Nortel Networks (NYSE: NT) on its toes. Even problem-ridden Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) should thank Cisco, because without that kind of competitive threat, Lucent would have stayed a bloated dinosaur and no one would have known any better. Now Lucent's weaknesses have been exposed and can be corrected.
Tighter regulatory oversight. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Accounting Standards Board have done more to help investors this year than in the previous three years combined. Wider dissemination of corporate information, crackdowns on reckless revenue recognition, broker data disclosures, you name it -- the market and finance overseers have taken notable strides in keeping companies more honest.
CNBC. The hosts can be smarmy, talking heads may swell with self-importance and shallow insights, and breathless market reporting ("The Dow's plunged, it seemed to be coming back, now it's dropping again..." Who cares? Get a life!) might appear schizophrenic to the point of silliness.
Fortunately, the premier U.S. financial broadcaster also provides strong breaking news, along with good snapshots of current market psychology and conventional wisdom. And the majority of CNBC's on-air talents pull off the amazing feat of not taking themselves too seriously, while still displaying more acuity than 99 percent of broadcast journalists.
Larry Ellison. Guaranteed entertainment and theatrics from the quote machine that is the Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) executive suite. Beats most soap operas and sitcoms on TV.
Jerry Sanders. Ditto. And the Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) versus Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) debate generates plenty of TalkBacks on ZDII and ZDNet. Keep the hits coming!
Online investing. The Internet lets huffy shareholders flame every pundit perceived as a critic of favorite stocks, and that's a good thing. You wouldn't be reading this (and thus I wouldn't have a job) if not for the continued growth of individual investors on the Internet. The so-called "little guy" has fueled not only an explosion of financial websites, but also the Internet economy in general.
Federal holidays. Thanksgiving couldn't come at a better time, because we could all use a break from this tiresome market right now.
Financial message boards. Online forums have gotten plenty of attention this year because of high profile busts of Internet hypesters, not to mention a few lawsuits demanded by overly-sensitive executives. I've penned a few columns on the anonymous dangers of online discussion forums, and I'll probably keep writing about them from time to time because the criticisms are valid.
But on the whole, stock message boards at worst are innocuous and amusing in a juvenile way most of the time, and at best mildly helpful often. People are going to talk about stocks no matter what, might as well do it out in the open where arguments and assertions can be refuted. And how can you not love instant feedback?
Speaking of online discussions, feel free to use the TalkBack section below to list your own reasons for holiday gratitude.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving.>