CALTON

Well, and here I thought I was so smart about finance, but you’re never too old to learn something new. You will recall that our little Calton is paying a $5 dividend on July 5. On June 4, I wrote:

Incidentally, the dividend is ‘payable to shareholders of record as of June 20.’ That means the stock should be trading at least a little above $5, as it is now, until June 20. But that on June 21 it will be instantly worth $5 less, and will open approximately $5 lower than it closed the night before. Anyone who owned the stock on June 20 (even if they then sold it) would get the $5 dividend July 5 (or whenever it actually hit their brokerage account).

Oops. So how come it’s well past June 20 and the stock is still above $5?

It turns out that the ‘record date’ is sort of arbitrary, important only in the back offices of brokerage firms, but that the ‘ex-dividend date’ – the date after which the stock trades without the dividend – is different. In this case, I was told by a broker at Ameritrade, it is July 6. That is, the dividend is slated to be paid July 5 (and should hit your account shortly thereafter – it’s done electronically, not with postage stamps). Even if you buy the stock on July 5, before it goes ex-dividend, you would get the dividend. It’s at the opening on July 6 (assuming my guy at Ameritrade has the ex-dividend date right) that it will suddenly start trading $5 a share cheaper, without the dividend. Which is to say ‘around 77 cents,’ at today’s prices. Which is why even now it might be a good speculation if it drops a few pennies.

TRAVEL NOTE

Remember the old moniker, ‘Ceylon . . . Pearl of the Orient!’ No, you’re too young. Ceylon was what we now call Sri Lanka. Well, my friend Nancy Rosenzweig is just back from the Greek isles, one of the most beautiful of which (I’ve been told) – Santorini – she has dubbed, ‘Santorini . . . Stairmaster of the Aegean!’ Isn’t that great? You’ll come back tan and with great calves.

TOBACCO’S BONANZA

I wrote a little last week about the Bush crackdown on the people who would impede tobacco company profits. Two days later came news that the Bush administration would settle the government’s suit with Big Tobacco.

USA Today titled its editorial, ‘Big Tobacco’s Bonanza.’ It began:

‘The Bush administration should call it ‘How to Lose the Tobacco War in Three Easy Steps.’ First, say that you’re not going to spend much money on the fight. Then broadcast the opinion that your position is weak. Finally, after waving a white flag, invite your powerful adversaries to negotiate a peace treaty. That, in essence, is the White House’s strategy to end what once was a potent legal battle against the tobacco industry . . . Big Tobacco couldn’t have come up with a better strategy. And the Bush administration couldn’t have come up with one that’s worse for the public.’

It is a grand time to be wealthy and powerful in America. (While we’re at it, let’s slightly reduce the estate tax on a few thousand of America’s wealthiest families from 55% to, oh, I don’t know – zero? We can always make it up by cutting the budget for alternative energy, or for boys and girls clubs.)

 

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