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May 26, 2004

Gas Prices

I was poking around looking for information about smog-reducing gasoline (which Atlanta has to start using in 2005) and found this staggering statistic from the govment about why gas prices have risen:

>>Fuel demand continues to increase. The fuel economy of US fleet is the lowest in 20 years and Americans continue to travel more. Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is up. Over the past twenty years onroad VMT has increased by 114% while population has only grown by 27%.<<

Once again, look no further than the end of your finger when blaming those who have made the gas prices rise. Not only are americans driving many more miles than they used to, they are using less efficient vehicles to do it in. While it seems fair that we are getting the higher prices we deserve, we're also raising prices for the rest of the world because of our waste and selfishness.

May 23, 2004

Site Meter

When I did the covered bridge and Sidney Lanier bridge websites for work I looked around for a free counter that would tell me how many people were visiting. I went through a couple of iterations before I found one I really liked called Site Meter. Not only does it count the hits without counting the same visitors repeatedly while they are on one visit, but it tells you what browser they are using, the operating system, what link they clicked to get to the site, the time zone, and their internet provider. Although I never implemented it on DOT's web sites the intended use of Site Meter is for you to put the counter on every page. Then they can count how many pages on your site each visitor visted as well as which page they are entering on and which they are leaving on.

Recently I was thinking about trying out pMachine's blogging and bulletin board system on my website so I asked SpeedFactory if I could do MySQL and PHP on my 30 MB of web space. They said I would need a commercial account so I won't do that (and I have a good blog system now that requires no maintenance on my part). Anyway it got me thinking about how many visitors I really have to my website. I had a counter at one point on my home page but it was a more limited page counter (actually one of the counting services I used and stopped using for the DOT pages) so it only counted hits on that page. Enter Site Meter. It's free anyway so I got a new account started up (even though I don't maintain DOT's web sites anymore (neither does anyone else so it's a shame) the counters are still in place and I still reset them to 0 every January 1) and applied it to all of my web pages on my home page, even the movie reviews.

It's been in place for a day. So far, except for my own visits, the only people visiting the site have visited one page. So would it be the Galapagos pictures? The iPod battery pack? My program to get notes from the Palm to the iPod? Rules of Night Baseball? Nope. It's a macro I wrote for Word 97 that unscrambles jumbles using Word's spell checker. It goes through every permutation of scrambled letters and uses the spell checker to see if it is a word. If it is a word, it tells you what the word is and asks if you want to continue searching. It's neat but it slows down dramatically once you get to 8 letters. And now there are plenty of websites that offer the same thing. So I have no idea why I would get 5 visits in one day to that page. It doesn't even show up in Google.

See a follow-up entry.

May 18, 2004

Another Timing Approach

Another technique which is similar to timing is to set a goal for a particular investment. If it is a stock fund that might be 10% per year. After a year if the fund hasn't gone up 10% you put enough money in to bring it up to 10% more. If it has exceeded 10% you sell enough shares to bring it back down to the target. This assures that you buy during downturns and sell during peaks. But the problem with it is that it assumes you have cash on the sidelines available to prop up poorly performing investments.

If you wanted you could do the adjustments on a quarterly basis rather than yearly and the results should be better. This wouldn't really work with my deferred compensation account since I don't have cash available and have to make regular rather than lump sum payments. So I might try it with some of my other mutual funds starting on June 1 meaning my first adjustment wouldn't be until September 1.

May 17, 2004

Market Timing Part 3

After writing my last entry about market timing I decided to abandon it on 3 of my 4 mutual funds and just apply it to Fidelity Over the Counter (FOCPX). That was my intention originally but then I started doing it on the others. Naturally as soon as I gave up it started working.

When I wrote last I had gotten out of FOCPX even though the price had gone back above the 50-day average. But it dipped below again and I bought it on its way back above the line on April 2, having missed out on a 9% gain in the meantime. Soon after (April 16) the price dipped below the 50-day average again and I sold it for less, thus incurring yet another loss. It crossed the line again but then went back down and now is about 10% below what I sold it at.

If it started climbing back up tomorrow I wouldn't buy it back until it the price reached back up to the 50-day average which is only a few percent below my selling price right now, so really I won't be able to save the 10%. But the advantage is that because I haven't gotten the buy signal yet, if the market continues to decline I will still be on the sidelines. The timing thing means you always cut the peaks and valleys off of the big swings so on smaller swings it isn't as useful.

Anyway, I'll continue trying this out a while long and we'll see what happens but I'm about ready to give up on it. If the market has a big correction I could change my mind. Really this only works for big long corrections.