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Can you please save The Business Press Maven from his tortured self? Where to start?
Don't worry, we'll get to how the business media declared the Rupert Murdoch/
( DJ) deal officially consummated late last week but we awoke this morning to read about how Dow Jones is out courting other bidders. Maybe courting comes after consummation and in my reduced mental state, I've just had it wrong all these years.
But first, let's touch upon a small, crazy-making item or two.
Earnings season starts today, right? Well, don't you suppose the dumbest thought we would hear from the business media this morning would be that if earnings are good, then the market will do well?
Which brings us to
a headline and lead
: "Stocks may rise as earnings season starts."
Stocks may rise? That's as good as putting pen to paper to write that classic bit of nonsense: The stock market will fluctuate. Well, at least they didn't construct the lead around the thought that if quarterly earnings come in good this week, then things will be looking up. Such if/then logic is hardly the sort that informs investors of more than what they already know to be a most basic truth.
Well, behold the lead: "U.S. stocks could rise this week if the first wave of quarterly earnings inject optimism about results for the period and on economic growth that has surprised on the upside."
"At least," I said upon reading this, "we saw it coming from a wire service." It's not like we'd see something like this on the renowned and revered first page of
The Wall Street Journal
, those news summary capsules that start the lives of nearly everyone in finance, and get even
notice (if that's even possible) on the paper's Web site. Said the item: "As earnings season kicks off, decent profit growth without new alarms could be enough for the market to continue its rally."
See how the renowned and revered portion of the business media advances your understanding? They not only tell you that stock could rise if earnings are good. They also tell you that they won't rise if there are any "new alarms."
There is a larger point behind my mentioning this high-profile meaninglessness: You have to think for yourself (or, second best, let The Business Press Maven do your thinking for you). The business media are not talking falsely here, but when the dullest, most obvious thoughts are showcased at the top of
The Wall Street Journal
, they acquire a false heft. When an investor takes the obvious as a profound, that investor can be tempted to act with a false sense of security, one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
Speaking of false, how 'bout those reports late last week that the Dow Jones/Rupert Murdoch deal was signed, sealed and delivered? It does appear to be close, but if a British weekly, which will remain unnamed here so I don't have to spit on the ground when its name is mentioned, was right last week it would not have come as a prelude to the equally dumb series of articles about Dow Jones going on a last-minute search for other bidders.
A couple of these articles get at what is going on. But others start out with excited headlines about Dow(n) Jones being "on the prowl for other bids!" ... before petering out by explaining how unrealistic that is, without getting at what is really going on, the subtext.
Let me explain what's going on and why it's not worth those excitable headlines.
In most business transactions, one or both sides engage in some last-minute posturing to close the deal. When The Business Press Maven sold his two-bedroom, sun-splashed apartment with a fireplace and river view on Waverly Place in New York City's Greenwich Village, the moment the buyers received the contract, I let them know I had scheduled an open house. I would not have sold the apartment to anyone at the open house -- by the way, the only one I held -- but that last-minute push got the contract signed quicker than you can say "We'll buy as-is."
The point is that at this late hour or any other, Dow Jones is not going to find a bid that supersedes Murdoch's. No one on this planet or any other has enough money harnessed to the mixed motivation of ego and at least the theoretical potential gain of leveraging the high-priced dud.
While still overplaying its publisher's trolling for an 11th-hour counterbid,
The Wall Street Journal
itself makes clear in its
on the development that the effort is a "long shot" and, as they properly say immediately in the article, is being done to throw a bone to the resistant share-controlling Bancroft family and hopefully squeeze a few extra bucks out of Murdoch.
The New York Times
-- which, by the way, this coming Sunday will put through one of the most misguided, mistimed price increases in business history (a bit akin to a typewriter company ratcheting up prices in the early 1990s) -- starts off
by lending more credence to the last-minute jockeying before backing off completely.
The headline carried connotations of a valid ongoing process: "Dow Jones Continues Hunt for an Alternative Bid.
We read of a meeting with Burke, an effort to find other bidders and Bancroft family disdain for Murdoch's sensationalism. Only lower down do we read that the session with Burke is "not significant" because he doesn't "have an offer to put on the table."
Uh, does a hunt truly continue if there are no hunters? Nowhere does the article mention that the Bancroft family, which hates Murdoch, may merely be angling to close the deal with a few more of his bucks. And I'm the crazy one?
One personal item: I wrote a chapter/essay for a book of essays being released this Wednesday, July 11,
Over the Hill and Between the Sheets
." It is, as you might surmise, not business in nature, but I'll be doing a reading that night at 7 p.m. EDT at the Borders in New York City's Columbus Circle. As was the case at the
Disneyland Massacre, please feel free to stop by and say hi.
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;
to send him an email.
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