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Maven: It's Not Google That's Gone Wild

The search giant's YouTube buy as proof of madness pales next to the antics of 'commodity dictators.'

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We've had a day to digest the news of

Google's

(GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report

gobble of YouTube, and The Business Press Maven has an ensuing case of indigestion.

From

The Washington Post

to

The New York Times

, the snap, simpleton judgment is that the acquisition was reminiscent of the 1990s in that, well, it seems kind of crazy.

A pattern of crazy behavior is, of course, a great inverse indicator of a topped-out market, but Google, a single entity, has enough money to take a flier on trying to integrate a hot and comparatively small company.

Maybe there is more to this one.

Besides, while declaring Google certifiable, the business media, in all their infinite sluggishness, are missing the real pattern of crazy behavior that has been a tip-off to the top-out in commodities.

I am pontificating, of course, about how everywhere we look, we see loopy, overconfident behavior from two-bit leaders of commodity-selling countries that have enjoyed good runs.

Commodities have always been used as weapons by one country looking for leverage over others.

But I'm talking about seeing a pattern of insanity -- crazy, arrogant, overreaching collective action that is truly on par with the Internet boom of the late 1990s.

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Everywhere you look, leaders of commodity-exporting countries are acting as kooky as

fin de siecle

technology analysts.

Take a look at the latest this morning in the

Financial Times

.

Viktor Yushchenko of the Ukraine, which is a top grain exporter,

halted wheat exports

in the past week because of a dispute over government intervention in the market.

Protesting protests of government intervention by intervening to the point where there are no exports? Sounds a little touched, no?

The Financial Times

reports stocked ships sitting idle in the Black Sea, costing big bucks.

And Hugo Chavez is certainly feeling his oats, though because of oil exports, not wheat. If anyone has acted with top-of-the-market arrogance lately, it's the Venezuelan dictator.

Speaking of oil, Vladimir Putin might run a close second. From threats about production to kissing the belly of any boy he wants, Putin is making a sight of himself.

If the business media want to superimpose the ghost of the late 1990s on a single acquisition, you'd do well to ignore it.

But anyone who sees collective craziness as a sign of a market at the end of a long run should look at the kooks loose in the international commodity markets.

We've already seen the evidence of price reversals in commodities like oil and metal --

check out

Alcoa's

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brewing troubles, for all to see this morning -- which just means the downturn is for real, and has further to go.

Having declared the death of commodity markets, The Business Press Maven must move on to something we wish was behind us. But I don't think it is.

That's why I will hand out my first Business Press Maven Ronald Reagan Commemorative "There You Go Again" Award.

It will be given to a thread of business media idiocy that repeats itself year after year, losing money for unsuspecting investors.

I have in front of me right now a

CNNMoney

story

, one of the first on the looming Christmas shopping season.

It's a curtain opener for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving commonly acknowledged as the official start of the holiday shopping season.

Apparently, mall operators such as

Simon Property Group

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and

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers

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have experimented with opening for Black Friday at midnight and it has worked, so they are going to experiment further; that is, extend the practice to more locations.

Investor beware. Because a holiday Friday is a slow news day, the business media have a nasty way of sending reporters low on seniority into the field.

These reporters usually come back with tales of a tussle or two on line and spin it into a yarn of robust demand, whatever the ultimate reality.

With midnight madness, the tendency to do this will be amplified. A fight at night! Must mean good same-store sales.

While we're on this subject, let's review what to look out for next.

As I pointed out

last year, as soon as Black Friday is over, the retail industry has the business media eating out of its hand over "Cyber Monday," the Monday after Thanksgiving when everyone goes back to work but shops online from their work computers.

There also are claims of "Super Saturday" and "Last-Minute Friday."

In other words, the impact of Black Friday as a predictor of the holiday season has been diluted.

And if the season seems to be underperforming, the retail industry keeps holding out hope for a great, defining day -- hope that tends to be parroted by the business media (bad stenographers, bad!).

Don't ever say that The Business Press Maven didn't give you a big, wrapped box of common sense before the season's first snowflake.

But first, let me stuff your stocking with this

story

at

Barron's

about the emerging concern with "net neutrality."

Any investor worth his salt is starting to look at how things might change if Congress goes to the Democrats, emotionally detached from whether they actually want it to happen or not.

(I get plenty of emotionally laden and misguided opinions from readers about how the market will sing or swoon under one party or another. Nonsense. Overall, the market performs about the same. What you need to do is look for the particular area that will do better or worse.)

Anyhow,

Barron's

rightly points out that shareholders of

Verizon

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and

AT&T

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, recently happy, might be made sad by a revival of Democratic attempts to limit phone companies from making money by, say, charging fees to Web sites that use up a lot of bandwidth.

The beneficiaries of such a move? High-bandwidth users like YouTube.

Hey, maybe Google wasn't so nuts after all. But those commodity-peddling dictators sure are.

A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children.