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Thanks, Google!
Time to look back at some good (Google), bad (eBay) and ugly (Creative Tech) Tech Biz stock picks.
June 30, 2005: 11:53 AM EDT
By Paul R. La Monica, CNN/Money senior writer

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Tech stocks are still down for the year but they've bounced off their lows. Will there be a second-half rally like last year?
Tech stocks are still down for the year but they've bounced off their lows. Will there be a second-half rally like last year?
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) It hasn't been a fun first-half of the year for investing in tech stocks...or for columnists who write about tech stocks.

The Nasdaq is down nearly 5 percent at the year's mid-point. So not surprisingly, most of my bullish stock picks have not panned out too well.

Now and Zen

My worst pick of the year, by far, was a prediction of good times ahead for Creative Technology, which makes the Zen brand of MP3 players. I argued that Creative didn't need to supplant Apple's iPod, just remain a solid No. 2 in a hot market, especially since the stock looked cheap.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Sometimes it pays to stick with the "Buy What you Know" philosophy. My wife owns an iPod. Many of my friends and co-workers have iPods. I don't know anybody who owns a Zen MP3 player. I take the subway every day to work and all I see are people with their white headphones.

So it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that Creative (Research) has not been able to ride the iPod wave at all. It issued a sales and earnings warning on Monday and the stock has lost more than half of its value since I wrote about it. Yikes!

Another blunder was a column in late March about eBay. I thought that the stock, which was pummeled in the first quarter due to fears of slowing growth in the United States, had finally hit bottom. Time to make a bid, I said.

Well, eBay (Research) has continued to fall. The stock has dropped another 12 percent and now there are worries that its PayPal unit, which is still rapidly growing, may soon face competition from Google. Gulp!

Sour Apples and Big Blues

My continued love of Apple's stock also came back to haunt me. I predicted in late March that the upcoming release of Apple's eagerly awaited new operating system, Tiger, would, uh, juice the shares. Hmmm. What's that I bit into? Could it be a worm? Apple (Research) has pulled back nearly 15 percent since then.

Then, there's IBM. Good old Big Black and Blue. In mid-April, I raved (raved!) about the fact that IBM was biting the bullet on options expensing earlier than it had to. I said that was great news for shareholders because investors would see just how much options would eat into profits.

Alas, only a few hours passed after that column was published when IBM (Research) stunned the market by reporting much lower than expected first quarter earnings a couple of days earlier than expected. Now the SEC is informally investigating IBM for how it handled the warning. IBM's stock has fallen 10 percent since mid-April.

All-righty. Now that I have sufficiently crushed my self-esteem, it's time to inflate the old ego again and take a look at picks that have actually worked out well.

Go-go Google!

Google, my savior! When shares of the top search engine company hit $200 for the first time, way back in January, I pointed out that the seemingly daunting stock price would not scare away investors and that a stock split was not going to happen.

And with Google (Research) topping $250 in late-May, I said that $300 was not out of the question in the near future. Lo and behold, Google's stock surpassed that on Monday. It has since pulled back to about $295.

One of my few bearish stock picks (I'm getting soft in my advanced age) so far this year was a look at Lucent in mid-January.

I wrote that the easy money had been made in the stock and that even though the network equipment company pulled off a rise from the dead that's worthy of George A. Romero, investors shouldn't expect the stock to head much higher anytime soon. Booyah! Lucent (Research) has fallen nearly 20 percent since that column.

Towers of power and shiny glass

Sticking with the telecom equipment world, a bullish look in early March at wireless tower firms, companies that lease space for antennas to wireless carriers, has turned out quite well. One of the industry's leaders, American Tower (Research) is acquiring rival SpectraSite (Research).

That deal was well received by investors, who have bid up both stocks, as well as the three remaining pure play tower companies, SBA Communications (Research), Crown Castle International (Research) and Global Signal (Research). Shares of all five tower stocks are up an average of 26 percent since my column.

Finally, a more recent column on Corning is also turning out to be a solid one, if I do say so myself. The company, like Lucent, saw its fortunes rise and fall along with telecoms in the late 90's and early Aughts. But Corning has made a strong comeback because there's more to the company than fiber optic cables.

Corning is a leading maker of glass used in flat-panel TV screens and computer monitors. And that business is booming. I argued in mid-May that this was just the beginning of more good times for Corning (Research) and so far investors agree. The stock's up another 17 percent.

And that's that. I'll take another look at these picks at year's end to see how they've held up. Here's hoping that techs enjoy another second-half rally like last year.

For a look at more of this year's winners and losers, click here.

For more markets news, click here.


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