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Author: tjmacke Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 5026  
Subject: Re: Beware the BULL! Date: 11/30/2001 3:33 PM
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Hiya Foolish folks!

As they say on the radio "longtime listener, first-time caller." Or in this case, longtime lurker, first-time poster. I'm usually content to observe, but I wanted to weigh in on this thread.

I'm a lowly working-stiff NT employee, who's been fortunate enough to make it (so far) through the corporate convulsions of the past year. Being in telecom & in a telecom-centric area, I have had many friends at LU, CSCO, ERICY, etc. (largely the result of happier job-hopping times of the late '90s thru 3Q 2000) get hit in their respective layoffs. I have little to celebrate when any company in the industry takes a beating, because it's likely to hit home in a very real way.

There are three points I'd like to make with respect to the current discussion:
1. Talking down a competitor's stock doesn't usually boost my stock.
2. Tone of articles/posts/press releases matters.
3. Always consider the source of any information.

Finally, I'll babble about the present sentiment inside NT. But first, let me expand on the three points above.

1. Talking down a competitor's stock doesn't usually boost my stock.
It has been suggested on this thread that a contributor's motivations were to boost their stock at the expense of the other. While that may be the case [which I doubt], it is not rational given that companies in established industries tend to move in relative lockstep with each other. Especially big, diverse, long-established players. A new & disruptive technology--particularly from a small company--can change the balance, as can revelation of management impropriety (ala ENRON). But on a discussion board, little short of outright fraudulent claims (drifting toward criminal) about a competitor can move a stock. Even then, it's unlikely to directly benefit the other. Here on the Fool boards, we are fortunate to generally have civil, thoughtful discussions.

2. Tone of articles/posts/press releases matters.
You've no doubt heard of the Consumer Confidence Index. It is touted as a measure of American optimism, an indicator of the near-future direction of the economy. The financial press takes it very seriously, and reports on it at every opportunity. It's influenced largely by the tone of the media in general. For 18 months we've heard nothing but reports on dot.bombs, technology implosion, and capital-vaporization writ large. Less than a year ago, people were blasting Bush for being so negative when he discussed economic matters. Why? Because it might depress the CCI. The consumer might get bummed and not rescue the downward spiraling economy. Or so the logic went. I'm beginning to digress a bit, so let me get back to my point, The tone of the articles, as much as the information in them, influences people's perception. Aahh, Spin. In predominantly negative times especially, a company will issue press releases with a positive tone--it's in their best interest of course. Spin again, but I'll address that in (3). The tone of techbert's (great handle, by the way) initial post was decidedly negative, despite the salient [main] point: Consider the Source. But do remember, tone matters.

3. Always consider the source of any information.
The Motley Fool returns to this point every so often, and it is quite important. CBOE was considering the source in the subseqent post [although I disagree with the tone. Again, tone matters--let's keep things cool, folks.]. When I'm looking at news about a company--even their press releases--, due diligence demands that I understand where it's coming from and what their agenda may be. A press release issued by the company is always going to be Spun favorably. Likewise for news articles that often repeat the content of company press releases without much thoughtful analysis. Furthermore, I need to understand the motivations of the entity publishing the article/release.
Since I've been following the stock market, NT has always had--what seemed to me--a high volume of press releases. In the McGinn era, LU did likewise. But that is not a data point that necessarily has any meaning. Taking the last 2 weeks as a guide (Nov 16-30), LU had 3 press releases to NT's 5*. By that measure, MSFT (having 26 releases) must be hurting, but AAPL (with only 1 release), is on top of the world. Despite containing facts, such a measure is not only grossly unscientific, but wide open to Spin as well [guilty as charged]. Seems to me that corporate culture is what dictates frequency & content of press releases, not necessarily the financial status of the company. Kudos to the Schacht administration @LU for reducing the clutter on the newswires, but I just ignored it anyway, as I do for NT and all other stocks I follow.

*Checking Yahoo, I counted PR Newswire, Business Wire,
and Internet Wire releases (and checked to be certain
the companies in question were listed as the source)
for LU, NT, MSFT, and AAPL for Nov 16-30.


Finally, my NT Babble:

I'm not in PR, marketing, sales, or management, so I don't have a good view of the financial picture of the company. What I do have is a general sense of how things are faring. It has been a horrid year, with constant uncertaintly. The sense in the last few weeks, though, has changed. Things seem to be stabilizing. There is still ongoing restructuring, but the massive reductions appear to have settled out. That's good, because individually focus has returned, as has a guarded optimism. I don't think it is limited to NT, based on what my colleagues at other vendors are saying. But I also don't see Telecom equities returning to the growth vehicles they once were. I believe Telecom will look very much like the stodgy industry it was in pre-internet times, but without the dividends. Furthermore, I can't say NT (or anyone else) is done with painful convulsions, but I'm optimistic that the worst has now past.

Aahh. Now to return to my lurker status. Long on NT (and other telecoms), whatever the near future brings.

-TM

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