Wednesday, July 22, 2009

575 Liz Taylor

575 Liz Taylor

No, not, THAT Liz Taylor. Liz Taylor the retail analyst for one of the remaining financial houses that still does that stuff. She calls herself Betsy, because she's tired of being asked whether she's related to the "real" Elizabeth Taylor, which she is not. She's also tired of being asked why so many analysts get their analyses wrong so often and still keep their jobs. So that's what this is about.

"I can walk into Lord and Taylor (also no relation) and tell you how the store is doing, in a very general range" she says. To demonstrate she walks into the world's smallest Macy's. There's practically no one in the joint. She noses around, picks up some stuff, examines it, puts it down, walks out and says "They're doing okay." She's asked "how do you know that? You can bowl in the store without hitting a customer." She says it's because of the newness of the price tags, the dust on the shelves and the loudness of the music on the public address system.

The tags tell her the merchandise is newly displayed. The dust on the shelves means there isn't time to remove it or business is so good no manager is paying attention. The loudness is enough so that when the store is full, the music and the paging can still be heard, which assumes the store is at least sometimes crowded.

Very sharp. So why do they get so much wrong? She says some do and some don't, but that outfits like Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg go for a consensus of analysts' expectations on a specific figure, and even if half those questioned hit it right -- which doesn't happen much -- the consensus still gets it wrong.

Oh. So it's Bloomberg's fault? "No," she says, "it's just the way it's done. But boosting or trashing a stock is part of the game and everyone gets trashed and everyone gets boosted in a fairly even-handed way.

Betsy has her eye on a handbag. But she's not buying. Instead, she's going to her hotel room, booting up her laptop and playing the analysts' guessing game about Macy's, which will bring either joy or sorrow to the folks in the home offices -- hers and Macy's. She's writing a post which eventually will find its way into the news.

Shrapnel:

--Let's hear it for Twitter. It forces us windbags to compress our bleats... uh tweets... into 140 characters or fewer. Very democratic, since Obama doesn't get any more space than the guy sleeping in the Westinghouse box.

--So the doc says "I want to see you back in six months." Then the appointment scheduler says "The computer won't let me do that. Call me in two months." Two months later, the doc is completely booked up at the time you're supposed to be seen.

--Direct deposit is a boon to most of us, but direct withdrawal is anything but. When your checking account is down to fumes, what happens when the phone, gas and electric companies are busily chasing the same bucks in the same account and there isn't enough to go around? Everyone gets paid and the bank gets overdraft fees.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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