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8/16/2005
Stocks as Mosaics, by Victor Niederhoffer

In the excellent book Evolution: an Introduction by Steven Stearns and Rolf Hoekstra, they describe the origin of the maple tree as the unfolding of various events that precede its first appearance 60 million years ago. Its predecessors included the first flowering plants, the first appearance of wood 350 million years ago, with roots and stems that first appeared 450 million years ago, chloroplasts 1000 million years ago ... the ability to photosynthesize 4,000 million years ago. "Like all organisms, the maple tree is a mosaic of parts of different ages."

What is the mosaic of a company like Pfizer? What a history the all-seeing eye could tell. It would include events like the search for colorings for paints that led to the first biocides, the wartime work that revved up backing for Fleming and the development of penicillin, the 30% decline during the October 1987 crash, the reaction to the multiple comparisons and ignorance and failure to weigh the benefits against recurrence of myriads of diseases that led to the pulling of Vioxx. The advance information about PPI that presumably led to the decline yesterday, the influence of oil price hikes and inventory numbers on the epidemics of selling and worry about their influence on consumer spending without reference to monetary policy, the Judge's weighing of the validity of the patents for Lipitor, the recent efforts to gain an upwards trajectory for earnings by spending $5 billion to cut costs of substantially more.

A few years later, the myriad of lifesaving drugs in various stages of development balanced against the need by the benevolent regulators to show they're tough and responsive vis-a-vis the consumer protection organizations and their clients on the Beltway. The constant acquisitions, the repatriatization of earnings of the very profitable offshore subsidiaries ... why,  it's a story that is almost as big as the maple tree itself.

One might think that such a impressionistic mosaic would be more suited for an aesthete than a speculator. But that would not take into account the myriad evidence that the years in which companies are formed and their key demographic events are correlated with future hazards.

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