Sorry there was no column Thursday. Overcome by guilt, I did put one up Friday night. But it was one of those cooking ones, so you missed nothing.

Looking for historical stock quotes? The price of Intel stock on January 15, 1974? Bookmark this great site. It accounts for splits, so you get both the price as of whatever date you choose ($86, in this case), plus the more meaningful “split adjusted” price (21¢).

Looking for a Mother’s Day gift? That would be my friend Marie Brenner‘s new book, Great Dames. (“For Mom, the greatest dame of all.” — You get the picture.) May 14 will be here before you know it.

Looking for a great Republican? Look no farther. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, has just invited me to become one of the 400 members of the Republican Presidential Roundtable. “My colleagues and I agree we must bring more people of your caliber into the decision-making process,” he writes. He hopes that I am “as pleased to accept the honor as [he] is to present it” to me — and that I will send $5,000 to get my lapel pin and confirm my acceptance. It really is a big tent.

Looking for financial clues? “I’ve been getting a number of annual reports in the mail lately,” writes Craig Furnas. “I’m wondering whether you look yours over, or any part of them, with much scrutiny? Which parts?”

I do not.

I do worry about reports that are particularly eye-popping, not just because of what they must have cost the shareholders to produce, but because . . . well, you know the line about “methinks she doth protest too much?”

But basically I recognize that the information in these reports is several months old, and thus already discounted by the market.

I read the management discussions of a few where I have (for me) a big stake and want some feeling of reassurance (worthless, but still a good feeling), or to get some sense of management’s tone of voice.

And I read the Berkshire Hathaway report, even though I’ve never been bright enough to own shares, because that’s just good reading.

But the good stuff in annual reports is in the footnotes and requires a pretty intimate knowledge of the industry and its accounting conventions to analyze it as competently as the research analysts who cover the industry for a living. That’s a lot of work, and I assume I won’t be able to out-analyze the pros (who don’t do terribly well analyzing it, either).

There are a lot of trees in an annual report. Given limited time and talent, I prefer to try to spy the forest. With, thus far, limited success.

Tomorrow: Goop


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