With the Internet, investors now can whine online ---- at any time

INVESTING

February 27, 2000|By BILL ATKINSON

IT WASN'T long ago that if an investor had a complaint about a stock, they vented to their spouse, or neighbor or a colleague at work.

Now, the whole world can hear what they have to say, thanks to the Internet and financial message boards.

Investors are flocking to forums such as Yahoo! Financial, Motley Fool and America Online. Identified by only a screen name, investors can lambaste management, float the latest rumor or engage in brutal debate, which often leads to name-calling.

Take investors in Provident Bankshares Corp., who have watched the value of their stock tumble 36 percent to about $15 over the past 12 months.

The frustration is palpable.

"We apparently won't hit ten [$10 per share] right away, but shareholders are DOOMED! DOOMED, do ya hear me?" wrote an investor named "Zitcop2."

Others have been grumbling about the stock for weeks, and they offer sympathy to fellow investors.

"I feel your pain -- but this is the time we must all band together and seek a change to that almighty and astute management," wrote an investor, identified as "small banker." "Yes, I too have been humbled by the performance -- and short of opening a vein and slowly bleeding to death, I just don't know what to do. So join hands comrades in pain, and pray for a change in management, or better yet, a buyout."

At least one investor has tired of the complaining.

"I sold a long time ago," wrote "mediciman." "That's why I'm not singin' the blues. I'll say it again, you have thousands and thousands of stocks to choose from. You chose this one to park your money in. Nobody made you sit here and watch it go down."

Those comments are merely a sampling of what investors are saying about the companies they own. Some are angry, others joyful.

They not only demonstrate the deep and emotional ties between investors and their stocks, but the willingness of stockholders to share their innermost thoughts.

Here's what investors are saying about their local holdings: PE Corp.-Celera Genomics, a Rockville-based biotechnology company.

On Feb. 15, a writer known as "IACOMAN" sniped at two Celera investors, noting that, according to his stock chart, the investors lost 10 percent of their money in the company in a month.

"Ever heard of opportunity cost?" he wrote. "Morons."

About an hour after his salvo, IACOMAN received this: "Quit being such a jerk. I hope you aren't playing with real money," wrote "barron45."

And then this reply: "Your chart analysis is as reliable as my Magic 8-Ball," retorted "greasyburger22," who added, "Quit trading your mommy's IRA. Just because your night shift at Taco Bell allows you to follow the market in the day doesn't make you a trader."

And this note by "lenjr," another investor: "I bought at $83 and will sell off a little when it hits $1,000. I want to see you eat your hat when it hits all-time high on Friday. HA, HA, HA, HA, HA."

Aether Systems Inc., an Owings Mills-based wireless company, whose stock has shot up 143 percent since the year began.

"I think I would probably beg, borrow and steal everything I could to buy some more AETH," wrote "leinbergeranz."

The Barbie Doll Investment Club in New York couldn't be more certain that it picked a winner in Aether. "People who invest in AETH know that the future is very bright -- and AETH will be there to deliver the vision," wrote a Barbie Doll investor. "Hold to this baby and you will not be sorry. Go AETH!"

Ciena Corp., an optical-networking company based in Linthicum, whose stock has rebounded to above $135 after plunging to around $8 in October 1998.

An investor called "popotoafd" says he is "just happy" the stock is rising after the "roller coaster we have been on."

Others expect the stock to push higher.

"In case you didn't know, `cien' is Spanish for one hundred," wrote "ph wilson." And "kiko da great" advised fellow writers to hang onto the stock. "Ciena is still in its infancy of being recognized as a leader in its field. Buy now and hold."

Verbal attacks are few when a stock is rising. A Ciena investor who acknowledges selling his shares isn't assaulted, but gently chided.

"Sure wish I hadn't sold my CIEN," wrote "RUFNAY."

"Get your act together my man and get back on the rocket," advised "hal61," who added, "Can't believe you sold out at $95. What have you done? You know this is one stock you can't outguess. Now quit fooling around and get back in."

Where else can investors get such sound investment advice? Only on a message board, where they can jabber, whine and vent about their favorite subject until their fingers tire and their eyes burn.

One thing is for sure, the audience is always listening, unlike a spouse who nods off at the first whisper of price-to-earnings ratio.

Perhaps an investor named "gambler" offers the best advice to financial message board junkies.

After selling Prime Realty Inc. stock at a loss, he had this to say: "Good luck rocket scientists, might see you guys on another board. It is all a matter of making MONEY, not hanging on to resolve other peoples' problems. It is all about how much $$$ you can make in a short period of time $$$$!

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