Details (from Behavioral Corporate Finance, Seohee Park)
Between March and July 2000, Intel’s stock price rose rapidly, to the point where in July Intel’s market capitalization was above $500 billion, making it the largest firm in the world. Then on Thursday, September 21, 2000, Intel issued a press release indicating that its revenue for the third quarter would grow between 3 percent and 5 percent, not the 8 to 12 percent that analysts had been forecasting.
In response to this news, Intel’s stock price dropped by 30 percent over the next five days. Intel’s chairman, Craig Barrett, commented on the reaction, stating: “I don’t know what you call it but an overreaction and the market feeding on itself.” An academic study found that at the time, virtually none of the analysts following Intel used discounted cash flow analysis to estimate the fundamental value of Intel’s stock. Instead, the study points out that analysts react to bad news in the same way that a bond-rating agency reacts to bad news. Just as a bond-rating agency would downgrade the firm’s debt, analysts downgrade their stock recommendations. After Intel’s press release, approximately one-third of the analysts following the firm downgraded their recommendations. Some of the recommendation changes were extreme. Notably, the cumulative return to Intel’s stock, relative to the S&P 500, displayed a negative trend for the period September 2000 through September 2002.
In what some might see as a replay of history, consider an event that took place at the online firm eBay during January 2005. Between the end of 2002 and the end of 2004, eBay’s shares increased by over 200 percent. During December 2004, eBay’s stock price peaked at $118, and its forward P/E ratio was 73. At the time, the firm’s market value was $81.7 billion. Fourth-quarter earnings for eBay grew by 44 percent to $205.4 million, or 30 cents a share.
Just as Intel had announced that its earnings growth would be lower than forecast, eBay’s actual earnings for the fourth quarter of 2004 fell a penny below analysts’ consensus forecasts. Meg Whitman, eBay’s CEO, stated that future earnings would be lower because of higher advertising costs and reinvestment.
In response, eBay’s stock price fell from $103 to $81 per share. The firm’s market value fell to $56 billion. Many analysts immediately downgraded eBay’s stock. Rajiv Dutta, eBay’s CFO, issued a public statement to say that his concern was managing eBay’s long-run prospects, not its stock price.
On January 26, 2005, James Stewart wrote about eBay in his Wall Street Journal column “Common Sense.” Stewart indicated that he would consider purchasing eBay stock in the wake of its decline. While acknowledging that eBay could not grow at a stratospheric rate forever, Stewart noted that eBay is in the process of transforming world commerce and has a natural monopoly. Were he to own just one Internet stock, Stewart said, eBay would be that stock.
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