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Captain's Blog

Captain's Blog, stardate 5/9/07

The Dow's run up may end with a hard fall -- but will it be subprime or China that takes it out?

By Andy Serwer, Fortune managing editor

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- -- RATES: These are the good old days? The Fed left interest rates alone again, and whenever that happens (not moving rates up or down), it always puts a big smile on may face. (I'm pickin' and I'm grinnin'.) This isn't complicated stuff, people, but most everyone misses the very important and to me not-so-subtle point. What Ben (of the Beard) Bernanke & Co. are telling you is that in terms of the tools they have at hand, the economy is PERFECT.

Well, okay at least in equilibrium, but even that is a many splendored thing. They are saying that the economy cannot be helped by raising rates, nor can it be helped by lowering rates. Hallelujah! Actually, some people have taken notice of this fact. The Fed has now held rates steady seven straight times since June 29th of last year. Since then the S&P 500 has climbed 18.8%! That's a lot. For here. (See below.)

STOCKS: Until I reach higher ground.....Has the Dow ever closed at 13,362 before? No it hasn't. It really is the harder they come, the harder they fall. (And I am talking one and all.) Okay, so let's have a contest: What do you think will undo this bull run? Not subprime, I say. Could well be China. Over the past two years the S&P 500 is up over 25%. Shanghai's SSE composite index is up over 200%! Truly! (The Hang Seng is only up a bit over 40% over the same time, fyi...)

In fact the funkier the market the more gains you got. The Merval (Argentina) has climbed over 50% since Spring 2005. The Ibovespa, down Sao Paulo way, has about doubled (again in two years)!.....Deep Blue on stocks: "So, it might be a sign of the top but I'm really having a difficult time finding anything exciting to buy these days. I bought the South Korea fund last week but that's about it. I still like JBLU (Charts) and UA (Charts) but not at current levels." ......Hey people ask me, 'the commodities run is over, right? Maybe not....what about aluminum?.......And what about Dow Jones (Charts)? (Never mind Dow Chemical!) There are other shoes to drop I hear, mark it down! Ditto with TXU (Charts, Fortune 500).

NOLA: Just came back from a remarkable (fact-finding/drinking/eating/music-listening) trip to the Crescent City. (And I'm sorry, but you can't do the first part without the second parts....) It is truly amazing and disgraceful what's going on down there. The French Quarter etc. is all fine, even better than before (cleaner), but the devastated neighborhoods, like the Lower Ninth Ward, well, the magnitude of the destruction is mind-boggling. It goes on mile after mile after mile. I asked one New Orleanian how long would it take to fix and he said, "the rest of my life. That's for sure." Gentilly, over to St. Bernard's (Chalmette), parts of Lakeview, it's almost just as bad. Place really needs a Roosevelt era WPA project to get it back, but then first they have to decide what to do with the levees. What's safe etc. But wait, we're too busy spending too much money destroying another city (Baghdad) to fix this one...

LOOSE CHANGE: Losers of the day: Cisco (Charts, Fortune 500) ("Stock Falls on Disappointing Sales Outlook.") And Dendreon (Charts), that one fell over 60%, because it looks like the FDA will delay its ruling on the company's prostate cancer vaccine Provenge. That'll do it.......

MUSIC: Well you can't do New Orleans without listenin' to some, and man we heard some quality stuff! How about starting with Donald Harrison, who is one bad-assed saxophone player. Saw him at Snug Harbor. Also saw Terence Blanchard, (trumpet) who we had dinner with (along with Mayor Ray Nagin.) ....Terence sat in with Donald for a few tunes. Both played early in their careers with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, a fave of mine......Later Wendy Martin turned me on to the late James Booker, who is a phenomenal New Orleans piano player (WHAT a character!) Harry Connick Jr. was a protégé.......Also, that new album by Kim Richy sounds pretty good.....

BOOKS: Here's what I'm reading: "Brutal: The Untold Story of My Life Inside Whitey Bulger's Irish Mob" by Kevin Weeks. If you like "The Departed" (and you know I did) you'll like this one. As well as the classic "The Hudson River, A Natural and Unnatural History" by (former Sports Illustrated) Bob Boyle. Wrote it in 1969. An amazing work.....

ON KENTUCKY DERBY DAY: (Take me down little Susie...) Do I love Street Sense? (Like Street Life!) Let me count the ways!!! (Tee hee). I am so much richer now!!!! Always bet on horses whose names begin with A or S. Right? Top of page