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HP: Media Sees Empty Glass, Calls it Half Full

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Against reason, better judgment and bald facts, several media outlets greeted Hewlett Packard's (HPQ) third-quarter earnings, reported Wednesday, by attempting to will a comeback into existence.

There was no evidence of it. We'll forgive them the $10 billion in write-offs, but the disappearance of HP's personal computer business, with sales down 10% thanks to competition from Apple (AAPL), Dell (DELL) and cut-rate competition, all for a shrinking PC pie, took a pipe wrench to HP's top line. The company cut numbers for the year.

Nothing could help. A re-revived tablet was trotted out as a hope. Believe it when you see it. Their service business, once thought to be a savior as HP promised to remake itself in the image of IBM (IBM), was down more than 3%. Printers, another last best hope, was also down.

Flailing in the face of reason, though, Marketwatch attempted to pull roses out of ashes with this headline: "H-P results 'better-than-feared;' shares up."

On the topic of those shares going "up," Marketwatch, of course, has some 'splainin' to do. They soon get to it: "H-P (US:HPQ) shares rose 1.5% in late trading after the stock shed about 4% in the dayside session."

Uh, OK. But even if you accept instant stock market reaction as the proper barometer of corporate performance, that's still down 2.5% overall.

Investor's Business Daily was just as bad with this headline: "HP Shares Fall 4% After Mixed Third-Quarter Results." If the stock fell 4% at sight of the earnings, results were probably a touch worse than "mixed."

But Investor's Business Daily was smiling even wider in their lead: "Hewlett-Packard's rejuvenation process continues its slow grind." If this is rejuvenation, even set at a slow grind, let's not imagine a bad quarter, lest we curl up in a collective fetal position.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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.

Fuchs appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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