Taking stock of politics

The market may be surging, but stay away from Reform Party Over-the-Counter Penny Stocks.

Published March 3, 2000 8:19PM (EST)

Overcoming early weakness sparked by fluctuating interest rates, political futures rallied to a mixed close last week in heavy trading. The Democrat 2000 Index eked out a small gain while the Republican New Millennium Index, hurt by a steep decline in shares of McCain Technologies, edged lower. Meanwhile, the Reform Party Over-the-Counter Penny-Stock Index sank to a 52-week low, amid continuing skepticism over the viability of some of its leading issues.

It was a particularly good week for the large-capitalization stocks. GWB Pharmaceuticals and Entertainment reversed some of its recent losses, helped by a growing perception that the company's commanding market share might enable it to withstand the challenge of less well-positioned competitors. Analysts, however, were not universally optimistic about the stock. Pointing to the recent debacle in shares of Forbes Aerospace, they speculated that large caps like GWB may be relying too heavily on current cash flow at the expense of innovative R&D initiatives, leading some to suggest that the stock may be overvalued at current levels.

The big loser of the day was McCain Technologies, whose imaging software Maverick 2000 had until recently seemed a potentially strong seller. Recent statements by McCain's CEO, however, have led some to question the program's compatibility with certain major operating systems. Several high-profile power brokerages downgraded shares of McCain from strong buy to hold, citing lingering questions about irregularities in past earnings reports as well as the lack of a detailed business plan for future growth.

Meanwhile, over on the Democratic exchange, stock performance was just as mixed. Bradley.net sank 5 1/4 points to a new low, dashing the company's hopes that sports-celebrity endorsements in its advertisements might rekindle waning interest in its experimental health care subsidiary. Gore Dynamics, on the other hand, rose smartly. Analysts speculated that the performance of Gore's new leadership technology might exceed Street expectations, allowing the stock to overcome persistent market negativity over its all-too-recent spinoff from Bubba Enterprises Inc.

But the news was all bad over on the Reform exchange floor. Recent defections from the exchange of high-visibility stocks like Trump Gas and Ventura Novelties have damaged the credibility of the entire market. Even Buchanan Jackboots and Uniform Supply, which might be expected to gain from the weakness in competing issues, fell sharply, though in very light trading.

Commenting on recent activity in the political marketplace, one analyst seemed anything but bullish. "The political futures market, like any market, is cyclical. Until now, stocks have been moving in a relatively narrow trading range, as individual issues tested their various support levels. But next week, when matters become desperate, there's going to be a lot more negative publicity coming out about many of these stocks." And what does that mean for the future? "Basically, anything can happen," the analyst concluded. "But take my advice. If shares of Perot Bread and Circuses start climbing again, you'll know it's time to sell -- everything."

By Gary Krist

Gary Krist is the author of the novels "Bad Chemistry" and "Chaos Theory."

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