Ego Central: You've got to hand it to The Hotline for once again getting it


on the economy. (Don't you just hate braggarts?! I know I do, especially when what they're bragging about was such a no-brainer! My mother, who regularly reads this column and knows virtually


about investing or the economy -- she reads it


she's my mother -- could've figure it out! Watch, and now she won't talk to me. I didn't mean it as an insult, ma, honest! Take me back!! But I digress ... ) First it was the prediction of weak

retail sales

. Then it was the prediction of a chilly

CPI. What next? Raymond, the 70-something stock broker who makes an appearance here every now and then calls this ay-em saying that the last time oil was over $32 a barrel, which it is now, was the first step toward a recession. So much for higher interest rates anytime too soon. Man the battle stations! Auntie Em! Auntie Em! (And hold the hostile-o-grams claiming that I am now predicting a recession. I'm not, just telling you what Raymond says. Right or wrong, this is one walk-the-tightrope time if there has ever been one for the rulers of the rates.) ...

Moving on: Looks like the $100 mil raised by



was a last-ditch effort to raise cash. "If everything works out, the company will have sold $100 million of stock at a discount to the market price," says resident skeptic Eric Von der Porten of

Leeward Investments

. "Sort of a secondary offering when you can't do a secondary offering. If it doesn't work out, the company's stock price will get driven lower and lower because the market will fear the dilution, which will drive the stock lower, which will increase the dilution, which will drive the stock lower ... Yes, it's the old death spiral, it seems to me." Death spirals ... If you're a company you don't want to go there. Wall Street's equivalent of a loan shark! ...

Oh, and don't let me forget to tell you: Yesterday's

Hotline mentioned a private e-tailer called

DVD Empire

. Said it had annual revs of $1 mil; make that annual profits of $1 mil. It had revs of $14 mil.


mistake ... A question for



Yesterday afternoon you said you would buy

NBC Internet


when it falls to cash;

today you say you wished you had shorted it knowing everything you know. So, would you still buy it at cash? ...

Finally: So, do you want your company to invest in the stock market? That was the question I asked after

yesterday's column on

Optical Cable


, whose money goes into a tech index fund. According to our nonscientific poll, however, roughly 62% of the Hotline's readers, as well as an almost equal amount of readers of my regular Herb on TheStreet column, who took an identical poll, say an emphatic "No!"

But there are some caveats. Michael Zigmont, for example, says he doesn't mind the investing, "but I don't want the gains/interest/dividends to be grouped in with earnings." And Asher Troppe, of

Epport Capital

(Troppe spelled backwards?!), says: "If after analysis, that is where they can get the best return on excess cash, then perhaps it is an acceptable idea ... I would add that it'd be very interesting for a tech company ... to put some into bear funds. This way, when the market takes a hit, perhaps the stock will take a smaller hit." (Good idea, Ash, but don't count on it until


is investing in bear funds ... I'm sure most of these johnny-come-lately corporate investors will do it at


the wrong time!) Then came reader

Matt Willes

, who asks, "Don't you buy an individual stock because you think it is going to do better than the market as a whole." (Yes, Matt.) "So wouldn't it follow that a company that buys a broad-based market index is saying it is going to underperform? After all, if you are going to outperform why bring your return down to meet the market?" (Smart man, that Matt.) Leave it to an


(INTC) - Get Report

engineer, however, to put it all in perspective: "Intel invests in companies," he says. "However, they do it with a pointed purpose: to expand the computing business market so that they can sell more microprocessors and other infrastructure silicon. They do not take the $10B and throw it into the

Munder NetNet

fund. The fact that they make money on the deals, although important, is not primary." Hear, hear! And I hope you'll be here for the next edition of ... The Hotline.

Please join me and Paul McEntire, president of the Bearguard Fund, as we show you why the shorts can help you save your shirt at the first Investor's Conference. McEntire, a veteran shortseller, started Bearguard last year. It's the first short-only stock mutual fund. We'll both share our tips on how to spot trouble, followed by my questions to Paul and your questions to both of us.

Surviving and profiting in treacherous markets

June 28th, 2000, Marriott World Trade Center, New York City

For information and registration, go to

Real Money Conferences .

Herb Greenberg writes daily for In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at Greenberg also writes a monthly column for Fortune.

Mark Martinez assisted with the reporting of this column.