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Alpenstock is a stock market sub-index developed in 1987 by Maria Manhouser, a curmudgeonly, bespectacled, tenured economics professor at Oathusker Univeristy in Upper Oatplains, Minnesota. The index provides the average stock price, weighted by market value, of all companies that produce breakfast cereals made from oats, fruits and nuts.

Initially, the alpenstock index contained only companies that exclusively made breakfast cereals composed of oats, fruits and nuts. If a company made any other type of cereal—or any other product, for that matter—the company was not eligible to be included in the alpenstock index. Manhouser soon expanded this to include all companies that made oat, fruit and nuts breakfast cereals, whether or not they also produced other products, because, using her original definition, her alpenstock index contained no companies no matter what stock exchange she looked at.

In 1998, Manhouser set up a systems that polls stock values and continuously calculates the alpenstock index on 27 stock exchanges around the world. She refuses to disclose the component companies in her global indices, but it’s generally believed that the highest number of companies included in the alpenstock index for any stock exchange is three. Even that is quite surprising considering that the company has to be publicly traded and produce an oats-, fruit- and nut-based breakfast cereal to make it onto the alpenstock index. Although it has never been proven, many people believe that Manhouser fudges the index by including any company that makes an oats-based breakfast cereal, regardless of whether there are fruits or nuts in it.

To pay for the system required to maintain the real-time index calculations (Oathusker University refuses to fund the project), Manhouser reveals alpenstock values only to people who pay her an annual subscription fee. Manhouser refuses to reveal her subscription list, but rumour has it that it consists of only her brother, who, out of sympathy for his anemic, academic sister, also donated his old Radio Shack TRS-80 computer, which he bought in 1983, to the project.

More than 100 leading economists from around the world, along with the 17 psychiatrists who have been treating her for the past decade or so, unanimously agree that Manhouser’s alpenstock index is the most irrelevant and silly stock market index ever devised by anyone, but they wish her no ill will and a speedy recovery. Well, actually, the psychiatrists don’t wish her a speedy recovery. They might have to downsize their lifestyles if she recovers.

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