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Tech Industry

2HRS2GO: The neverending earnings season

A long time ago, in a tech galaxy all too near, earnings season was a temporary state of affairs.

You'd brace yourself for a tsunami of quarterly reports, starting about a week after the calendar year quarter ended and running for the next few weeks. You had a few companies with fiscal quarters on a different cycle, but for the most part, you could relax a bit once you were a month out of the CY quarter.

But it seems to last forever these days, thanks to the constant stream of new companies in recent years.

Take this week as an example.

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At least 14 companies related to technology, communications or the Internet reported quarterly results since Monday. At least seven more are scheduled to report after today's closing bell: ADC Telecom (Nasdaq: ADCT); Autodesk (Nasdaq: ADSK); Synopsys (Nasdaq: SNPS); Network Appliance (Nasdaq: NTAP); Ciena (Nasdaq: CIEN); Electronics Boutique (Nasdaq: ELBO); Portal Software (Nasdaq: PRSF); and Sycamore Networks (Nasdaq: SCMR)

More than half the stocks on that list didn't exist on the Nasdaq five years ago. Three weren't publicly-traded as recently as two years ago. One has been public for barely a year. Another has scarcely six months on the market.

The situation have worsened by several orders of magnitude since then. According to Thompson Financial Securities Data, the last twelve months have seen 444 technology IPOs, including 132 so far this year.

More than 400 additional earnings reports every quarter. Who has time to read them all? Who has the energy to care about even half of them? No wonder technical games are displacing fundamental analysis on Wall Street -- no individual or fund manager can possibly keep track of so many businesses.

It won't get any easier for technology investors. You hear about all the dot-coms on the way down, but it doesn't matter.

Plenty of new issues will replace them, even with the current market uncertainties. Four tech stocks priced to go public today, including New Focus (Nasdaq: NUFO), US Unwired (Nasdaq: UNWR), iBeam Broadcasting (Nasdaq: IBEM) and Nogatech (Nasdaq: NGTC).

Four more companies to track. Or at least four more earnings news releases to worry about every quarter.

And people wonder why media coverage gets shallower by the day.

Antitrust regulators overreach

Worldcom (Nasdaq: WCOM) faces an unfriendly government that might block the proposed acquisition of Sprint (NYSE: FON). Today's Wall Street Journal says federal regulators worry about the combined entity's market shares in U.S. long distance market and Internet traffic.

Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice must have some major swagger after their success against Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) so far. It's the only explanation for their opposition to a deal that wouldn't change the acquirer's market position one bit.

Worldcom Sprint will still be a distant second to AT&T (NYSE: T) in long distance. Worldcom reportedly is willing to sell off Sprint's Internet backbone. Worldcom currently has no wireless play of its own, so it's not as if adding PCS (NYSE: PCS) results in a newly dominant powerhouse in that arena.

Don't overlook New Guard competition from the likes of Qwest Communications (NYSE: Q), Level Three (Nasdaq: LVLT) and Global Crossing (Nasdaq: GLBX). And that's only in the United States.

Do DOJ litigators want Worldcom to sell off UUNet, as the Europeans have suggested? That's ridiculous, because Worldcom has owned that business for years, long before it became a nationally recognized force with the MCI acquisition.

It's even more ridiculous when you consider mergers already approved. If SBC Communications (NYSE: SBC) and Bell Atlantic (NYSE: BEL) can get away with essentially undoing most of the original Ma Bell breakup, how bad can it be to combine Worldcom and Sprint? And if Worldcom is so dangerously dominant in data traffic, why was the MCI deal approved in the first place? 22GO>