Buy before the rumor, sell before the news?

One of the really intriguing aspects of the blogOspheric chatterfest is how the big markets tend to react to rumors from key business related blogs.    When TechCrunch reported yesterday that talks between Microsoft and Yahoo had resumed Yahoo stock increased, only to fall after several other blogs reported the rumors as false or weak.

Although I have no reason to believe that Mike Arrington or Henry Blodget are trading options based on their market-moving blog reporting, I’m not at all clear it would be illegal for them to do so as long as they were reporting “real” rumors.

Henry answered at his blog that posting a false rumor to manipulate for investment purposes would likely be seen by SEC as a violation but this leaves a lot of gray areas open for an aggressive options trader/journalist. 

Here’s what I just asked Mike Arrington over at TechCrunch:
Mike just to set the record straight the ValleyWag poster “Mike Arrington”, who claims to have made 10k trading on Yahoo rumors, is fake … right?

More importantly I’m very interested in your views on legality/ethics of trading Yahoo options based on the rumor mill. Let’s say you heard a solid rumor that MS was about to offer $37 for Yahoo and Yahoo was going to sell. Could you legally trade on that before you posted it? One second after?

What if you emailed *me* right before you posted, I think I could legally trade based on current SEC rules, right?

P.S. What kind of Single Malt Scotch do you like? : )

Although I have no plans to manipulate any markets, it is reasonable to assume that if a market can be legally manipulated it *will be* manipulated, and soon. 

Microsoft and Yahoo

I’m still digesting all the Yahoo Microsoft commentary but it seems to shake out as tech folks thinking it will not work and investment folks loving the deal.    Hmmm – the comments seemed favorable, but Microsoft lost a huge chunk of value in stock trading so clearly the “market” is skeptical of this.

One of the things I’ve noted in Silicon Valley is how popular Google has become and how poorly regarded Yahoo and Microsoft have been with respect to internet stuff, though part of this may be that I’m involved with mostly search related online events and conferences and Google clearly rules that roost.   I think the Google success and mystique has probably kept tech folks from focusing on the huge potential of a combined MS / Yahoo empire.    Where both Google and Yahoo have succeeded in capturing online traffic Microsoft has conspicuously failed.   Yet Microsoft has continued to pull very expensive enterprise computing rabbits out of its hat, with even the most recent earnings reports suggesting they still are a dominant and profitable force in the software market.     What better way to smooth the transition from old to new than to buy Yahoo?      Pitfalls?   Sure, but the cultural differences will be happily overlooked by Yahoo employees hungry to see their stock pulled out of the sewer.      If Microsoft is smart they won’t merge the brands – rather inject life and some cash into the flailing Yahoo search and affiliate system.    Microsoft could strongarm online affiliate publishers in a way Yahoo could not – by essentially bribing them to move over from Google via 100% revenue sharing.    The extra total traffic and buzz would be well worth the sacrifice of some of the publishing money.     

As a Yahoo stock holder I’m obviously happy to see the offering price pull the stock up, and positive attention focused on this deal, but I also think it’s a good ideas for the reasons I’ve discussed over the past year.   Most notably MS internet failures, Yahoo’s internet successes in Web 2.0, and the huge combined traffic footprint of a combo-company.

Henry Blodget, who helped me in an oblique way with his rumor that pushed me to buy more Yahoo on Tuesday, now is reporting that there may be other parties interested in Yahoo.   This would make sense given the companies clear potential to be as successful as Google while it languishes at a Market capitalization of about 20% of Google.   I’ve never understood the huge pessimism about the company – clearly the “number two” online behemoth.     We’ve got dozens of major automakers, oil companies, etc.  Why is there an assumption that only Google can succeed online?

Disclosure:  I’ve got Yahoo, and finally don’t have to say that hanging my head in shame.

Trickles of web content to become floods, sweeping away the cable industry? Maybe.

Henry Blodget at Silicon Alley Insider has a good insight about the threat to cable from online feeds, which are now a trickle but could become a flood.    Blodget notes about the agreement between Yahoo and CNET:

… cable companies, meanwhile, depend on monopoly access to networks like CNBC and cannot afford to be circumvented by, say, a live CNBC web feed (lest a web trickle become a flood)…

I think Cable still has a viable future for at least the next 5 years because convergence of media is going to take a lot longer than most think, and if Cable is smart they’ll find ways to be the key broadband conduit into the home as they already are for millions of American homes.    It seems to me that the internet is more threatening to information driven media like newspapers than it is to entertainment driven media.   The is partly just a bandwidth issue – currently it’s not realistic to expect people to buy, configure, and use the fledgling broadband movie services.     How soon will this change?    5+ years in my estimation.   Of course eventually super high bandwidth streaming into most homes will be the likely main paradigm for home entertainment, but this won’t happen for some time.   We are too stubborn to innovate nearly as fast as technology allows.