2HRS2GO: Stocks fall in a vacuum of news

3 min read

COMMENTARY--Wall Street players really need something to occupy their minds.

Investors and traders must be bored going into the weekend. Nothing else explains their decision to play games with several stocks on vapid news:

  • Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU)
  • fell on reports that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is looking at the company's books. Hello? Wasn't anyone reading the company's spate of announcements over the last three months?

    The provider of communications equipment already restated revenue from prior quarters. CEO Henry Schacht last fall admitted the company's books are a mess, and shareholders reacted by driving the stock into the low teens.

    An SEC investigation is a formality. Regulators will look at any company that admits accounting problems; it would be major news if the SEC didn't look into Lucent. At least executives brought problems out before the federal government jumped in.

    For that matter, anyone paying attention could see Lucent was brimming with problems all of last year, even before Schacht replaced Richard McGinn. The publicly reported numbers told a story of disappointing sales and earnings, as well as an inability to roll out new products quickly.

    Selling Lucent now is like dumping season tickets for a losing NFL team being investigated by the league for salary cap violations. You already knew the club stunk up the joint last year. Why are you worried about it now?

  • Nokia (NYSE: NOK)
  • slid nine percent after UBS Warburg downgraded the stock, which makes me wonder if Nokia shareholders just woke up after a six-month nap.

    Motorola (NYSE: MOT) talked about lower wireless handset sales. Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) gave up manufacturing phones entirely. And Nokia last week warned of a slow first half.

    It doesn't take a highly paid research analyst to see the trend for this industry, and it shouldn't take said analyst's warning to sell. Assuming you're a fundamental investor and not a trader, there's no point in selling Nokia now, because the company's situation won't get much worse.

  • Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL)
  • gave up more than 10 percent as some analysts expressed nervousness about the last few weeks of the software vendor's quarter.

    This is polar opposite of Nokia and Lucent. Those companies' problems have been known and documented for a relatively long time. Oracle, on the other hand, is being taken down on a complete lack of warning signals.

    Unlike Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO), Oracle hasn't warned of difficulties. If anything, evidence from other enterprise software vendors suggests Oracle should be fine. Commerce One (Nasdaq: CMRC), PeopleSoft (Nasdaq: PSFT), Siebel Systems (Nasdaq: SEBL) and i2 Technologies (Nasdaq: ITWO)--each a competitor of Oracle in some area--have all recently reported no signs of a slowdown in demand in applications for e-commerce or supply chain management.

    It's especially silly to mow down Oracle considering there are three weeks left in the quarter. Oracle, like most sellers of corporate software, doesn't nail down most of its contracts until the end of a quarter. No one knows if the quarter will be good, bad or average.

You could argue for profit taking in Lucent's case, since the stock has run up recently. If that's the case, the SEC provides a flimsy excuse at best. And you can't say people are cashing in on the stocks of Oracle and Nokia, which haven't done much lately.

Wall Street has nothing to go on with any of these stocks. In a jittery market, that's enough to make people flee.22GO>