I'm just back from a quick visit to a technology trade show in Boston. My informal market index is the quantity and quality of freebies, known in the industry as "swag," that is given out at such events. At the height of the dot-com bubble, we were awash in swag. I almost had to get a restraining order to stop Compaq from sending me a t-shirt every few weeks. When the bubble burst, the swag went with it.

Well, I'm happy to say that swag is back, but nothing like at a market top. T-shirt quality could be better and companies could be more creative (Microsoft gives out dorky office pens), but the most exciting new item is the 4-in-1–laser pointer, LED light, PDA stylus, and pen. Now I can destroy the retinas of my more unresponsive students. Companies that give out candy as swag are an automatic short.

While I continue to favor value over growth and have no use for tech companies, the state of swag tells me that we are at least a year away from a general market top.


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