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April 24, 2019 | Wall Street Incites a Flash Mob to Pump Up Facebook

Rick Ackerman

Rick Ackerman is the editor of Rick’s Picks, an online service geared to traders of stocks, options, index futures and commodities. His detailed trading strategies have appeared since the early 1990s in Black Box Forecasts, a newsletter he founded that originally was geared to professional option traders. Barron’s once labeled him an “intrepid trader” in a headline that alluded to his key role in solving a notorious pill-tampering case. He received a $200,000 reward when a conviction resulted, and the story was retold on TV’s FBI: The Untold Story. His professional background includes 12 years as a market maker in the pits of the Pacific Coast Exchange, three as an investigator with renowned San Francisco private eye Hal Lipset, seven as a reporter and newspaper editor, three as a columnist for the Sunday San Francisco Examiner, and two decades as a contributor to publications ranging from Barron’s to The Antiquarian Bookman to Fleet Street Letter and Utne Reader.

Facebook has rocketed 10 percent higher this evening in after-hours trading, demonstrating yet again how Wall Street runs a rigged game that even the most gifted carny operator would envy. The stock’s deft handlers have used a headline out after the close to incite flash-mob buying with the irresistible force of a nuclear detonation. Prior to this evening’s ballistic episode, which took all of 118 minutes to unfold, it had required an entire month to eke out the last 10 percent gain. That was no small trick either, since the news that kicked off the wafting rally was not particularly bullish. Facebook’s Big Idea, announced after the close on January 30, was to “pivot” away from advertising revenues toward fees for such services as encrypted messaging and virtual rooms to accommodate small groups.

At the time, the stock took an instant 15% leap, confirming our worst suspicions about investors when they come together as a mindless herd. Clearly, no conceivable business model will ever be more profitable than the one Facebook currently uses — i.e., collecting fees from vendors for laser-targeted advertisements. But if the planned “pivot” seems likely to diminish the value of each and every one of Facebook’s two billion subscribers, investors seem not to care.

Zuck Dazzles Analysts

Even without the change, Facebook was in danger of becoming uncool. The social media giant is already a pariah in the eyes of all who value privacy. Still worse is that its core audience of millennials has been deserting it in droves. We know from the saga of AOL that it’s possible for an internet giant to become a has-been overnight. Lest analysts pause to consider this possibility, Zuckerberg pro-actively dazzled them with twaddle about a “pivot” toward a new business model. It were as though McDonald’s had elicited high-fives from the Street by pivoting toward beer and pizza.

No matter, for the stock is screaming tonight on a short-covering panic triggered by earnings that beat analysts’ rigged, lowball estimates.  They provided a springboard for accomplishing in little more than an hour what a month’s worth of ratcheting rallies could not. Take mildly positive news, launch it after the close in the heat of a stock-market wilding binge, then let a short-covering stampede do the rest. In one spectacular, manifestly unearned leap, FB has closed half of last July’s bearish gap, bringing it within spitting distance of new record highs. Are these guys good, or what?

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April 24th, 2019

Posted In: Rick's Picks

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