The Chart du Jour

Newtonian World

July 5, 2001

By, Barclay T. Leib

Back in the 18th century, Sir Issac Newton brought us the Second Law of Motion and Thermodynamics. It has to do very much with the concept of entropy where an object thrown in the air can continue to rise as long as its momementum stays above a given threshold related to its acceleration and mass. When that lower threshold is reached, an object then reverses direction and starts to fall of its own weight.

Formally stated, the law says that the acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object. As of an equation, the net force is equated to the product of the mass times the acceleration, or Fnet = m * a.

Can consumer spending and debt continue to expand indefinately, or will debt expansion be subject to the Second Law of Newtonian Physics at some point? We do not have a specific timing answer to that question, but we do think at some point Newton's concept of entropy will apply. We also think that this concept should be on the minds of shareholders of companies such as Capital One and Providian. Just how long can the good times for these companies last?

Meanwhile, there are of course securities out there that are trading well below book value and represent good value. Elsewhere, there are true growth stocks that we also like. In this month's subscriber-only missive we detail a few securities that for a variety of niche reasons we hold long.

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