Ben Stein Must Be Stopped
So many points to pontificate about, so little time.
First, let me begin with a first. I have never warned readers away from any one columnist or journalist, but after reading his column this weekend in The New York Times , I feel obligated to tell readers to never read Ben Stein again.
In indicting traders and lackeys in the press for the subprime selloff, Stein offers not one shred of evidence. Moreover, his implication that traders would purposefully tank the subprime market because they are short stock belies the reality that almost every Wall Street firm is getting creamed because they were not short. And traders are getting laid off left and right. Again: because they were not short.
They Just Don't Get Big Macs and AMEX!
2) It'll tell us better than anything how American Express and the American consumer have fared in the past few weeks. Profit or pestilence? We'll have some idea. We'll also know how good of a bead American Express has on the health of its own house. Only three weeks ago, in the defining event of today's report, the lens through which it should be seen, American Express chopped numbers pretty severely. All the numbers, that is, except for items like delinquencies in its U.S. loan holdings, write-off rates and a charge. They were way up. Too often, the business media report on earnings vs. expectations without ever mentioning when those expectations were last tweaked. It is of tantamount importance that these numbers were worse only three weeks ago. Any report on AmEx's fourth quarter that does not mention this prominently is not worth reading. If the company does not meet these recently set expectations, it is especially bad news and the report should be written accordingly. If AmEx hits the numbers, it is better than the alternative, but does not mean all that much, considering the ink on the numbers is hardly dry. Now to Apple (AAPL) and the Case of the Missing iPhones. Let me be clear: most of the time, when the business media luck into a story that lends itself to murder mystery headlines, I am weary of too much being made of the issue because of its catchiness. When an industry which usually spends its days crafting headlines like "Merrill Takes Another Write-Down," gets to tap into their inner Agatha Christie, well, the temptation to go too far is there. But this is an important issue and as someone who has taken a lot of heat since its introduction by doubting that the iPhone would be a source of long-term strength for a company I had never before criticize ... well, I would be surprised if one too many iPhone were sitting in inventory of closets, gathering dust. But stay i-tuned to this one, despite the fact that the jazziness of the headlines would have otherwise made The Business Press Maven more weary.
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