It was the rumor you could not totally believe set against the denial you would be crazy to trust. In the annals of every lamebrain thing spoken and written about financial markets and companies good and bad, there has probably been no better case of how words can be such an imprecise measurement of fact than in what caused yesterday's reeling, lurching movement of Countrywide ( CFC) stock.
With stomach malfunctioning at the mere prospect, the Business Press Maven is going to try to decipher what happened. But as befits the circumstance, let me perform some rough justice on any discussion of rumors on Wall Street. When the choice is between wanton rumor and denials from a company that has proved a congenital liar, you should save your bacon by making the essential choice of: none of the above.
Headline: They Just Don't Get Rumors!
Stay clear of Countrywide -- as a long or short -- until the words that are splattering the stock or the ones designed to revive it earn something more than your chronic mistrust. But for our larger understanding of how these things work, why did the word "bankruptcy" get thrown around Countrywide's neck so tightly yesterday, specifically? Why was the word used in relation to Countrywide with such furious energy on Jan. 7 that the company was forced to issue a denial? Why not Jan. 6? Or Dec. 6, for that matter?