Stumped about Google? So are the experts.
Analysts seem clueless as to where the 'don't be evil' stock is going.
NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - Confused about whether the $100-plus plunge in shares of Google is a buying opportunity or a reason to flee the stock? You're not alone. Wall Street analysts are just as befuddled.
It felt very 1999 late last year when analysts slapped price targets of $600 and more on Google's shares, which peaked Jan. 11 at $475. Google (Research), in addition to its "Don't be evil" credo, also adheres to an investor relations policy of "Give no guidance." When earnings fell below expectations on the last day of January, investors panicked, sending shares as low as $348.
Since then, Google's stock has been more of a roller coaster than the rocket ship it once was. This week has been a perfect example. It closed last week at $377. On Monday, it soared as high as $392, based on some positive commentary from analysts and a generally upbeat market.
Then, when finance chief George Reyes told investors Tuesday that even mighty Google adheres to the law of big numbers, the stock plunged as low as $339 before stabilizing around $372. For those keeping score, the spread between the high and the low represents about $16 billion in market value.
So where's the stock going next? Analysts basically are clueless. CSFB's Heath Terry raised his price target from $475 to $500, arguing that "given the company's rapid growth and the lack of guidance, [the weak results] do nothing to change our outlook." UBS's Benjamin Schachter cut his target from $500 to $425 and suggested to clients 17 questions he wished he had the opportunity to ask Google.
He may get his chance. Google hosts an investor conference March 2 at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. At last year's meeting, the company's executive chef spoke, but the CFO did not. (He did speak to investors in a webcast several days earlier, however.)
Wall Street is definitely hungering for data this time around, and they're likely to get it. According to a recent report in TheStreet.com, Google has been polling investors on what they'd like to hear on Thursday.