By Marek Fuchs
You may assume Thanksgiving week will pass by in mostly uneventful fashion, but there is actually more to the coming days than shopping while nursing family grievances and tryptophan headaches.
Though this holiday-shortened week is commonly taken to be all but newsless – save, that is, for coverage of Friday’s rampaging consumers – it can actually be a bit sneaky. In fact, more than pretty much any other truncated week, this week offers up, along with cranberry sauce and 1,423 varieties of stuffing, a recipe for potential misunderstanding. From the surprisingly heavy economic calendar, to the ample opportunity
to hide bad news, to the threads of thought mistakenly pulled from
Black Friday, no other week of the year is as much of a trapdoor.
BlackBerry (BBRY) CEO John S. Chen has already gotten the week's stealth-news heavy ball rolling by firing several top executives, and Wal-Mart (WMT) announced the appointment of Doug McMillon as president and CEO. Expect more unsettling firings and somewhat uninspiring hirings to be announced.
A raft of data
Yes, earnings season is all but over, but there is a veritable raft of data to be digested this week. Iran deal elation and misgivings are also on the plate.
Marking the end of the month and making up for time lost to the government shutdown, we get October pending home sales on Monday, housing starts and building permits for September and October on Tuesday as well as consumer confidence, with initial claims, durable goods, Chicago PMI and leading indicators rounding out the week.
The numbers have already started to hit – and hit us in the head. Pending home sales were anemic, falling 0.6 percent in October. The media initially blamed the poor showing on the government shutdown, but October's decline marks the fifth straight one. If the week's flotilla of numbers keep coming in ugly, this quiet week could prove pivotal.
And, as noted, holiday weeks (especially toward the end of the year – beware Christmas, too) are great places to hide terrible news. Look for news releases toward the close of trading Wednesday, and early and often on Friday. In fact, we invite you to use the comments section below as a clearinghouse for news designed to be ignored by the masses. Hiding news in the quiet of a holiday period is the oldest trick in the book for a reason: It works. Don’t let it.
Then there’s the Klondike Gold Rush that is Black Friday, the so-called defining shopping day of the year. How potentially misleading is the coverage? Well, just look at this USA Today headline: “Shoppers already lining up for Black Friday deals.” That ran on Wednesday. That is – Wednesday the 21st, the Wednesday before the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Could this be true? Is it possible that a meaningful number of shoppers were lining up 192 hours before Thanksgiving?
The Black Friday hype
Of course not – perfect evidence of how vigilant you need to be about not falling into the rut of passively listening to Black Friday coverage. This article – again, not from some blogger braying on the Internet but from the widely distributed USA Today – was built on the basis of interviews with a set of triplets from Akron, as well as a shopper sighted in California and another in North Carolina, but the long-term campers seem more chuckleheads than consumers.
Last year one of the triplets, according to the article, even “left right before the store opened and shopped online.” There is little media coverage more prone to hyperbole and hype. And never mind shoppers spoiling for a fight on line – remember (because these stories often won’t remind you) – it’s profits that matter in the end.
Toward that (uncertain) end, Amazon (AMZN) will be blastings out new deals on its site every 10 minutes, about long enough to have a cup of coffee in between. Not to be outdone, Walmart (WMT) is starting early and ad-matching. Apple (AAPL) introduced a new store App just in time for Black Friday. Instead of door busting, you can ossify on your couch and not miss a beat.
With all that will be going on in the financial world, avoid the temptation to sleep off the nerves that will undoubtedly be frayed by family visits.
Yield to the wishes of your mom and make an effort to talk to your crazy cousin. But as you are reaching for the turkey leftovers to make a day-after sandwich, don’t forget to keep an eye on the ticker.
Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' County Lines column for six years. Fuchs speaks regularly on business and journalism issues at venues ranging from annual meetings of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers to PBS to National Public Radio. His recent book, "Local Heroes: Portraits of American Volunteer Firefighters," earned widespread praise. He is on the writing faculty at Sarah Lawrence College. When Fuchs is not writing or teaching, he serves as a volunteer firefighter. You can contact him on Twitter: @MarekFuchs.