Following the shadow of the skies
Or are they only figments of my eyes?
Feeling close to when the race is run,
Waiting in our boats to set sail
The sea of joy.
Sea of Madness, Sea of Joy
SAN FRANCISCO -- That the lyrics above come from a song by Blind Faith is likely to generate hoots and catcalls from cynics (at least, those familiar with the short-lived band featuring
). But if your financial boat wasn't already at full sail,
today was a very good day to unleash it from its moorings.
Where to begin after a session like Tuesday's, which saw the
return to record territory? But it was the way those proxies set their latest peaks that left market players alternately ecstatic and scared to death. For the seemingly umpteenth time in the past three or four years, there was talk today of the action being so outrageous, so stunning, so beyond the pale that it must be the dreaded "sign of the top."
Surely the end must be at hand when
gains 23% in a day or when
another 24%, bringing that firm's gains since Feb. 9 to 286%.
True, chip stocks have enjoyed some good fundamental news and positive analyst comments, while Rambus has benefited from one of the great short squeezes in recent memory. But these kind of moves had all but the most bullish market watchers gasping.
Then, of course, there's
, a stock that was mired under 30 from late February 1999 until mid-November of last year, which rose 28% today to 98.
That's just to name three of the more obvious examples. There are countless others, but those were first on the lips of market players, several of whom said action like today's
be the final blow-off, if not the precursor to a (gasp) crash. Mustn't it?
Obviously, only history will say whether Feb. 29, 2000 has significance beyond (well) today, but it strikes me that we've heard this cry of "Uncle" literally dozens of times in the past few years. Back in
early December, you'll recall, many market players were convinced the blockbuster IPO of
would prove to be the final feather in the bull market's boa.
Then, as now, few professionals were willing to go on the record predicting the end of the bull. It's hard to blame them as the road to good financial intentions is paved with the nameplates of those who've incorrectly called the top. (Meanwhile, you've got to give
Barton "Bubbles" Biggs
some credit for sticking to his increasingly less-powerful guns in yet another fun-filled appearance on
One market watcher, to whom I'm eternally grateful, laid out the rationale for why today could be the "penultimate blow-off" top. But at the same time, he acknowledged that the continued strength of money flows into the equity market will likely forestall any meaningful setback for the bull, much less its demise or a crash landing.
In January, nearly $40 billion went into equity mutual funds, up from almost $25 billion in December and $17.24 billion in January 1999, the
Investment Company Institute
reported Monday. The vast majority of the inflows went into aggressive-growth and special-sector (i.e. tech and biotech) funds, ICI said.
Meanwhile, our source further contradicted his initial blow-off call with some quick math on 3Com and the IPO of its
Tuesday night, 3Com upped the expected range on the 23 million-share public offering to between $30 and $32 a share. 3Com will hold 532 million of the Palm shares until they are dispersed to 3Com shareholders six months after the offering.
Given that Palm is the latest "hottest deal ever," our source confidently predicted the IPO will open at $100 a share (at least). Should the offer close at that "conservative" level, the Palm unit would have an implied market cap of about $55.5 billion.
Now comes the fun part: After today's jump, 3Com had a market cap of $33.5 billion, but the value of its holdings in Palm alone could well be in excess of $50 billion.
Although Palm represents "just" 18% of 3Com's revenue, it is the company's chief growth component at present, leading some to
question the future of a Palm-less 3Com. But our source argued the 3Com shares are "undervalued" based on the likely market value of its holdings in the unit.
Doesn't much sound like a market top, does it? Unless, of course, you want to take the point of view that the price investors are likely willing to pay for Palm (or have already paid for 3Com or Micron or Rambus, or
, etc. etc.) is somehow unjustified or out of step with reality.
Ironically, the list of people making those arguments seems to be shrinking even as prices for certain stocks go ever higher.
Aaron L. Task writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at