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Dell Earnings Explainer

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A glance at Dell's (DELL) earnings and forecast reveals financial feet of clay. Fourth quarter earnings and first quarter guidance came in light. Dell, to be certain, is suffering the fate of the PC maker. The company stands unable to compete with the move toward tablets (AAPL), as well as vulnerable to cutbacks in federal and state technology spending. Dell is making attempts to transform into a broader provider of technology services like IBM (IBM), but its efforts so far exist in a state of suspended adolescence.

Dell is also a victim of temporary circumstance: specifically, the Thai floods. But several media outlets, including Investor's Business Daily, make absolutely no mention of the flooding. That's no good. The floods hit the fourth quarter, raising the price of disc-drives and creating a shortage. That's a legitimate and temporary issue. Temporary issues are, of course, better than systemic ones.

Still, while Investor's Business Daily was wrong to ignore Thai flooding as a factor, The Wall Street Journal overplayed it. To the Journal, the flooding was the key factor in Dell's poor performance. It was the focus of the headline ("Disk-Drive Woes Weigh on Dell") and its first point of emphasis. The tablet factor, perhaps the most intractable challenge faced by Dell, was not mentioned until the end, and only in passing, relegated to an afterthought.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.

For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

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