I know that $4-billion is a big number. And yes, I know that’s how much Apple’s shares fell during the blog scandal known as “Applegate,” in which Ryan Block of Engadget ran an internal Apple memo saying the iPhone and Leopard would be delayed (for which Ryan has apologized). And I know that it may have been an attempt by someone to game the stock, as my friend Paul Kedrosky — who is wise in the ways of the stock-market force — has suggested.
But I still think it’s the proverbial tempest in a stock-pot. Could someone theoretically have lost money if they traded on Ryan’s post? Theoretically — in the same way they would have “lost” money if they had sold Apple two weeks ago or a month ago, and in the same way that they “lost” money if they bought Yahoo stock hoping Microsoft was going to buy it after the New York Post rumour from awhile back. Anyone who sold on the Engadget news is a momentum trader, and/or a nervous Nellie, and therefore deserves whatever they got. The stock was back where it began within an hour of the rumour, and Engadget’s fake memo post only survived uncorrected for a matter of minutes. That’s hardly a capital crime.
The fact is — as Howard Lindzon of Wallstrip (how’s that takeover deal going, Howard?) points out in the comments section over at TechCrunch — stocks go up and down every day, in some cases by large amounts, based on rumours and trader talk and (in some cases) the weather. Day traders can make and lose lots of money on those gyrations, but for the most part it is noise.
The fact that Engadget’s fake memo moved Apple so much is an indication to me of just how volatile the stock is, another sign that expectations are getting overdone. And as Mike Arrington suggested, anyone — blogger or “real” journalist — would have done exactly what Ryan did. The difference is that traditional journalists likely wouldn’t have corrected it so quickly.