1. The Upbeat Goes On

The 10,000

Dow

is a distant memory. The 5,000

Nasdaq

seems like a cruel joke.

But at least one aspect of happier times on Wall Street remains. Analyst days are still Upbeat.

Analyst days, of course, are those occasional meetings that publicly traded companies hold with investors. Analysts and portfolio managers camp out for the day at the corporate HQ or in some hotel ballroom, watching a series of company executives run through more PowerPoint slides than Suze Orman has teeth. After four hours or so of slide shows and food breaks, the executives line up for a question-and-answer session, then everyone heads home.

And what do sell-side analysts do when they get back to the office? Why, they write research reports announcing that the analyst day was upbeat.

At least, that's what it seems like to us. Like "tech-heavy Nasdaq," "highflying Internet stock," "bankrupt dot-com" and "disgruntled former employee," "upbeat analyst day" is one of those standard adjective-noun combinations that flood Wall Street and the analysis thereof.

Why, as we discovered in a cursory survey of research report headlines,

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

had an "upbeat analyst meeting,"

Network Associates

(NET) - Get Report

had an "upbeat analyst day," and

Kos Pharmaceuticals

(KOSP)

had an "upbeat analyst meeting."

So did

Eaton

(ETN) - Get Report

,

Chico's FAS

(CHS) - Get Report

,

Progress Software

(PRGS) - Get Report

and former highflying Internet outfit

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

. All in the past month.

The upbeatness whipped itself into a frenzy a week ago, when no fewer than three different analysts pronounced

McData's

(MCDTA)

analyst day "upbeat."

So we got to thinking, here at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab. Is it possible, we wonder, that calling an analyst meeting upbeat is about as pointless an exercise as calling water wet? Why shouldn't an analyst meeting be upbeat, because the company at issue controls 90% of the agenda and can, in the weeks leading up to the analyst day, concoct PowerPoint slides upbeat enough to make

Enron

look like

Berkshire Hathaway

?

Wouldn't the real news be that a company had a "downbeat" analyst day? That apparently never happens, because we couldn't find a single analyst day over the past 11 months labeled downbeat, though a few conference calls made the cut.

The involuntary, reluctant spokesman for the brokerage industry on this matter is Mark Sue, the C.E. Unterberg Tobin analyst who deemed McData's meeting upbeat -- and who had the bum luck of picking up the phone while we were calling around for someone to talk to.

Asked whether any analyst meetings are, in fact, downbeat, Sue said, "There are positive meetings, there are neutral meetings, and there are definitely negative meetings." What made McData's particularly pleasant, he said, was that the company reiterated guidance at the high end of its prior forecast. "Wouldn't you think that would be upbeat, considering all the bad news we've had?" asked Sue.

Beats us.

2. The Limits to Growth

Speaking of analyst days,

TheStreet.com's

crack research associate, David Peltier, points out that

Baxter International

(BAX) - Get Report

must have had a fun time Thursday, the day of its annual meeting with analysts.

Before the market opened Thursday, the pharmaceutical firm cut guidance. The lowered outlook for both earnings per share and revenue growth hammered Baxter's stock by 20%.

TST Recommends

In its Thursday press release, Baxter promised to elaborate on the outlook at what the announcement oddly called its "investor conference for investors."

The Downside to Growth

That mellifluous phraseology -- "investor conference for investors" -- struck us as a wee-bit awkward. So to investigate further, we visited Baxter's Web site.

There, we discovered, "investor conference for investors" is not, in fact, the official name for Thursday's gathering. In fact, up until Thursday's preannouncement, the event was known to one and all as Baxter's "Annual Growth Conference."

Of course, they could have called it Baxter's "Lower Sales Growth Expectations Conference." But that, we think, would have been too downbeat.

3. Dude, Where's My Apple?

Last month, you may remember, we wrote about an ad for computer manufacturer

Gateway

(GTW)

that, thanks to someone's Dumb oversight, pictured

someone happily using a PowerBook from

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

.

Power Promotion
Who can tell the difference anyway?

How much dumber can you get, we thought.

Plenty, it turns out. And pretty quickly, too.

See, we discovered this week that right there on the Web site of DellHost -- a Web hosting provider identified with computer colossus Dell (DELL) - Get Report -- there's a picture of a hip-looking customer in a hip-looking office. And right in the center of the photo is a hip-looking laptop computer. Manufactured by Apple.

When we called up Dell to ask, "Dude, where's my Dell?" we learned that Dell, in fact, does not operate DellHost, but licenses the Dell name to Sprint under a seven-year agreement.

A Sprint spokeswoman acknowledges that yes, indeed, the laptop is a PowerBook. "It wasn't our intent to focus on the actual piece of equipment," she says.

As for how Dell feels about an Apple on DellHost, the spokeswoman didn't know. But, she says, "We'll certainly follow up."

4. Lord of the Ring Tones

How do you learn about what's going on in the world of technology? From reporters, of course. How do reporters learn what's going on in the world of technology? From the companies they cover, of course. And how do reporters decide which companies to cover?

You don't want to learn. Believe us.

OK, OK, we'll give you some insight into the process. Next week, the wireless communications industry, companies and reporters included, will be gathering in New Orleans for a major industry convention.

And as we learned this week from an email to members of the press, on the eve of the convention, a company called Pepcom will be holding a technology showcase at which reporters can learn all about new stuff from companies such as

Handspring

(HAND)

,

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

and

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

.

Eyes on the Prize

But a lineup including those companies and other heavyweights apparently isn't enough of a draw for wireless/PDA reporters. That's why Pepcom explains it will have a prize drawing at the party, too. "Ten lucky journalists," says Pepcom, will win a free copy of

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring -- Platinum Series Extended Edition

" (suggested retail price: $39.99).

What, we asked the nice lady from Pepcom, did

The Lord of the Rings

have to do with wireless/PDA anyway?

Oh, nothing, she said. "We like to give away prizes like that at our events.

Um, has Pepcom or anyone caught any flak for these giveaways? No, she says. "The things that we do give away are usually nominal in value, compared to whatever restrictions journalists have from their employers," she says.

Well, when reporters file upbeat stories from the show, you'll know why they're in such a good mood.

5. Plane Crazy

Finally, kudos to J.P. Morgan airline analyst Jamie Baker for a level of optimism perfectly appropriate for that particular industry these days.

In a Wednesday report offering some impeccable advice -- "We suggest investors purchase airline equity precisely 24 hours before commencement of hostilities" -- Baker gives new meaning to the phrase "diminished expectations."

What's the definition of "improvement in airline fundamentals"? According to Baker, it's "

avoiding

bankruptcy over the next two years." What's the role of the analyst community? "Identifying the next bankruptcy candidate." And what makes an airline stock attractive? Looking like it's at the back of the line for bankruptcy, which is one of the reasons he upgraded

Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

this week.

With upbeat commentary like that, who needs downbeat?