More Winners Than Losers in This Column's Report Card for the First Half

And each one holds an invaluable lesson.
Publish date:

Six months down. Six to go. This column historically grades itself and its sources at year-end. But, hey, do you


care that far from the fact? Do you care at all? I dunno, but for accountability's sake I care.

Not only does it keep me and my sources honest, but there's a moral to some of these stories, especially this year, thanks to tougher year-end audits and/or the inability of companies to hide from bloated inventories or botched business plans.

Classic examples, since January, include

Party City

(PCTY) - Get Report


no celebration -- delisted),

Family Golf Centers


(playing golf isn't as popular as watching it --

earnings disappointment),

Just For Feet


(earnings got trampled,

lousy inventory controls),




not enough caution in the amount of surgical gloves -- its specialty -- put into the distribution channel),

Guitar Center


(sad song --

surprising slowdown in earnings growth) and

Select Comfort



deflated -- didn't sell as many airbeds as expected). Each one was a favorite of short-sellers, and each came apart with surprising speed. (A-pluses, all of them!)

This column also gets high marks for raising questions, starting last year, about

CHS Electronics


, a distributor of electronics products overseas. It received an incomplete in my last year-end report card. Funny what a difference a disclosure about

missed earnings coupled with an admission of forged documents can make. (Moral: Never pick a public fight with short-sellers, which is just what CHS' CEO did.)

Also at the head of the class:

Piper Jaffray's

Ashok Kumar, who correctly

warned that


(DELL) - Get Report

revenue growth would slow, and money manager Jim Marquez, of

Bayou Capital

in Greenwich, for his A-plus prediction in

April that


(FLR) - Get Report

was ripe to rise (it has roughly doubled). Also high on his

list at the time:



(up 27%);

Cabletron Systems

(CS) - Get Report

(up 61%);

Network Equipment


(up 26%). Also:

R&B Falcon

(FLC) - Get Report

(up 11%);

Pioneer Natural Resources

(PXD) - Get Report

(up 31%);

Ingram Micro


(up 20%) and



, which he said would eventually get a takeover bid. It did, and now it's about 50% higher than when he first mentioned it. (Which goes to show that if you have passion about something, it can pay to go on the record.)

Speaking of which: Short-seller Marc Cohodes of

Rocker Partners

, no stranger to this column, finally gets an A-plus for predicting that

HMT Technology


, a maker of PC hard disks, would get

flattened. (It did, stockwise and earningswise.) Ditto for Cohodes with



, which is roughly half of where it was six months ago,

Engineering Animation



Network Associates



Other columns worthy of the honor roll:


(PTX) - Get Report

, which

makes towels, and

NCS Healthcare


, which

distributes drugs to nursing homes. Both became very ill


they had already fallen in earlier plunges, proving that just because a company has already been hit by bad news doesn't mean it can't get hit even harder with worse news.

And this column deserves to be on the dean's list for mentioning



and its Internet spinoff,




Both are lower than where they were.

But this column gets failing marks, at least right now, for questioning

Microchip Technology

(MCHP) - Get Report

, which continues to defy the skeptics. And

Hibbett Sporting Goods

(HIBB) - Get Report

. (We could call both incompletes considering that short-sellers continue to whisper that they've got plenty of trouble.) And how about

Bebe Stores


, a fast-growing retailer of clothes for teenage girls? Hasn't budged since I

mentioned it. (Incomplete.) Other incompletes include

Lernout & Hauspie


(hello you unlovable


Stewart Enterprises


(the stock is down but there's certainly been

no funeral procession);



; and

Pre-Paid Legal Services


(jury's still out on



Quite frankly, this is the lowest number of failures since I started this report card a decade ago. I had planned to give myself the worst possible failing marks for having the gall, earlier

this year, to question whether


(SBUX) - Get Report

was finally starting to lose its perk.

But Wednesday, after the market closed, the company did something very un-Starbucks-like: It reported that its fiscal 1999 earnings will miss analysts' estimates. Oops! Says one longtime Starbucks short, who was


short last night: "It's just a coffee company."

On that note, I'm sure there are plenty of others, especially failures, that I missed. If so,

let me know and I'll be more than happy to take the public humiliation.

TV Talk

Memo to the many readers who wonder when I'll be back on


: I won't, and thanks for watching. But you will get a chance to see me,

Brenda B.



and a cast of (OK, not thousands, but quite a few)


ers on


new weekly show on the

Fox News Channel

starting July 17. (So, if your cable carrier doesn't carry


, tell 'em to get it and get it NOW!)

After all, the Fox is faster and slier than the Peacock.

Herb Greenberg writes daily for In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at Greenberg also writes a monthly column for Fortune.

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