Tuesday, October 11, 2005

In Further Praise of Sell-Side Analysts

How could I overlook this week’s gyrations in GM’s stock price as a result of the Delphi Chapter 11 filing on Saturday? A great topic for today’s musings. I won't even belabor my own comments within the past week regarding how long Detroit would be without one less free-standing auto manufacturer.

I guess I don’t understand our brilliant Wall Street analyst corps.

GM and Delphi are two of the largest US firms in a very prominent economic sector. Delphi’s spinoff from GM is recent and very public. Both companies’ economic woes have been well-covered in the press, never mind by analysts, for months.

So how can it be that Delphi’s filing could cause a 10% drop on the open of GM’s stock by today’s market close? Isn’t the analyst’s job to divine these things a priori, by dint of her/his superior knowledge, skill and familiarity with the companies and situation at hand? Could the bankruptcy filing really have been that much of a surprise? Even CNBC’s “Squawk Box” reported that Steve Miller, head of Delphi, had explicitly warned of filing for Chapter 11 protection several times recently. This, they noted, was not something he had ever done when leading the turnaround at Waste Management.

It seems to me that this situation, the linked and troubled fortunes of GM and its one-time subsidiary, Delphi, illustrates how poorly the analyst community typically performs. I don’t see analysts as any better at covering this developing situation than the business media, such as CNBC or the Wall Street Journal. It reminds me of the oft-repeated quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson regarding a choice between government with no free press, or a free press with no government.

Give me the media every time.

No comments: