Don't Buy Blodget's Microsoft Bluster

Half-baked, thinly sourced theories shouldn't move stocks, or drive coverage. But they do.
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The Business Press Maven hardly has the intestinal fortitude to take on today's media morsel, but I forge on to save you, the savvy investor, from certain financial ruin.

Ears perked yet? Good.

Because we have two merger rumors being bandied about by the business media right now, and an application of The Business Press Maven's vaunted "source analysis" will make quick work of both.

One of the most persistent and ridiculous rumors we've seen crop up repeatedly has been the one about

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

buying

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

. "Source analysis," which analyzes the validity of the rumor by analyzing how strong the sourcing of the article is, showed this deal to be bogus numerous times.

So what, pray tell, did it take to create yet another round of nonsense on this nondeal? Hysterically, the what is

Henry Blodget, former dot-bomb scamp who skirted prison by the skin of his teeth and now pontificates about the stock market. If Henry were simply braying away on the Internet, that would not be bad. But the rare-do-well has been

showcased without a valid warning in

The New York Times

, where he was called a "chastened bull," a description that is in the early running for understatement of the decade.

Anyhow, a couple of days ago, Henry revived the MicoHoo nonsense on the strength of the supposition that a Microsoft official was not a "moron." Someone at Microsoft said they were going to increase search market share, which, in the world according to Henry, meant a sure Yahoo! takeover. Whatever.

It actually wouldn't be that bad, as I said, if Henry were singing to himself in front of the mirror, but soon

Barron's

was on the

scene of the disaster, in a piece that called Henry's observation "interesting," breathing life into a dead, sourceless merger story. But

Barron's

didn't stop there. The chance of

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

taking over

EchoStar

(DISH) - Get Report

is greater than Microsoft taking over Yahoo!, but so is the chance of The Business Press Maven joining the starting rotation of the New York Yankees.

But a look at

Barron's

today shows no reason to believe it will happen. Although they make the case that AT&T's interest has been

reinvigorated by the drop in EchoStar stock, we are told that by "an industry source," who can be just about anyone.

Neither company would comment on the rumor, which is understandable, but we don't hear from anyone "close to the deal," only "a person familiar with the company." That, loyal reader, is the definition of vague and woolly sourcing that you should not bet the farm on.

Indeed, that person familiar with the company can be anyone, even (gasp!) a hedge fund manager with a position.

The rest of the article is background. But there you have it. Thin-as-can-be news sourcing + background = whole new article!

The stunning conclusion? "Given all this, a deal appears likely to come now ... or never."

Now let's move from mergers that are figments of the business media's imagination to a shopping day that has become that.

The coming Black Friday will be most disappointing to the business media, who still cover it as the defining day of the holiday shopping season and therefore the retail year because, despite all evidence to the contrary, it hardly matters anymore.

But old habits die hard, especially when they make for easy copy.

And so all week we will see voluminous levels of wasted and misleading talk and speculation on part of the business media about this coming Friday.

And, no, these aren't just television news hounds who want to get money-shots of shoppers jostling in line. Look at

The Wall Street Journal

over the weekend, which ran with this headline: "

'Black Friday' Shoppers Should Give Stores a Lift."

And this lead: "Crowds of shoppers are expected to hit stores on Black Friday, the traditional post-Thanksgiving kickoff of the holiday shopping season, giving retailers a much-needed boost after rocky sales this fall."

How, you rightly ask, can the

Journal

traffic in such throwback thought?

Well, they don't fully. Which is why the headline and lead are so misleading. A few sentences down, they quote

MasterCard

(MA) - Get Report

saying that Saturday, Dec. 22 will be the biggest shopping day of the year.

("But I thought...) Never mind your logical thoughts. Logic has no place in talk and writing about Black Friday, where it is ancient perceptions that rule.

Look, most business news outlets have already run stories this year about how, with advanced discounting, the Christmas season is starting earlier than ever. This caused The Business Press Maven to

crack wise that Black Friday will soon become the start of the Christmas season again ... only it'll be the one 13 months off, not one.

And as we saw last year, Black Friday is followed by too many other defining days to count, from Cyber-Monday to Last-Minute Saturday ... or whenever. Though I do not think we are headed for a good holiday season like I did last year, the problem with treating each of these days as central is that, as we saw last year, they can't help but disappoint. Because they are not central. Last year, each of these days passed in disappointing fashion ... and then we had a

good year!

The Christmas season, in the end, is long and there is no one central day. But old canards die hard. Just ask

The Associated Press

, which started the week with this line: "And after Thanksgiving, as investors do every year, they'll be watching for hearty holiday spending by consumers on Black Friday..." Sources close to reality tell me that Black Friday can finally be declared nonsense.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;

click here

to send him an email.