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Baseball on the brain
Earnings? Economy? Wall Street cared more about balls and strikes than bonds and stocks this week.
October 17, 2003: 1:02 PM EDT
By Paul R. La Monica, CNN/Money Senior Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - "Did you watch the game last night?"

Sure, it was a busy week on Wall Street, with earnings reports from several Dow components. But did anyone really care? It seemed like a lot of people were a wee bit distracted by America's pastime.

Countless hours were probably spent -- we won't say wasted -- by workers in offices across America (but especially in New York, Boston, Chicago and Miami) talking about the two classic league championship series instead of doing work.

During IBM's (IBM: Research, Estimates) analyst conference call on Wednesday afternoon (which just so happened to be taking place just as Game 6 of the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox series was getting under way), a Big Blue executive asked Steven Weber of SG Cowen, based in Boston, to give an update of the score. Weber was delighted to tell everyone that the Sox had a 4-1 lead at the time.

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Patrick Comack, a telecom analyst for Guzman & Co. in Miami, confessed Thursday while discussing Nextel's (NXTL: Research, Estimates) earnings that he was preoccupied trying to order tickets for the World Series online. The Miami-based Florida Marlins, who beat the Chicago Cubs to win the National League pennant, will host Games 3, 4 and (if necessary) 5 of the World Series next week.

And one analyst joked that baseball might have even skewed some market data this week. The Chicago Board of Exchange Volatility Index, known as the VIX, hit a new 52-week low on Wednesday, a sign of optimism that historically has been an indication of a market top. But perhaps this shouldn't be a cause for concern after all.

"Maybe the reason the VIX has dropped so low is that the options guys in Chicago are so exhausted from watching the Cubs," said Barry Ritholtz, chief market strategist with asset management firm Maxim Group.

Was anybody working?

Of course, it seems absurd to suggest that the U.S. economy or stock market will suffer due to a lack of productivity this week. But the fact that the Red Sox and Cubs, two of baseball's perennial losers (some would say the franchises are cursed), both came so close to making it to the World Series caused even many non-sports fans to take interest in the games.

And it's really hard to imagine how much work got done in Chicago Thursday following the Cubs' loss, and how anyone in Beantown will be motivated to push paper Friday.

Ren Zamora, a telecom equipment analyst with Loop Capital Markets in Chicago, said a lot of people he knew did not make it to work Thursday morning. He didn't have that luxury, however, since cell phone market leader Nokia (NOK: Research, Estimates) was reporting earnings.

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"If it weren't for Nokia, I would have thought about calling in sick. There was nobody in the city yesterday morning. When you did see people, it looked like they were going to a funeral," Zamora said.

Brian Carmichael, a spokesman for John Hancock, the financial services firm based in Boston, admitted he got in a bit late to work Friday morning. "I couldn't sleep," Carmichael said. He added that a fund manager he was trying to line up for an interview was unavailable because he went to New York Thursday night for the game and wasn't expected in the office until the afternoon.

Heck, this story should have been done a lot sooner. But the writer, who was at Yankee Stadium last night, was too busy e-mailing and instant messaging friends about Aaron Boone's game-winning home run.

Sorry, boss.  Top of page

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