Northern Trust’s untrustworthy rally

Oct 26, 2010

It doesn’t take much to get the merger rumormongers riled up nowadays, does it.

Northern Trust rose 4% early Tuesday after the U.K.’s Daily Mail dutifully reported that “rumours persist” that the Chicago-based trust bank is in the cross hairs of London’s HSBC .

HSBC, the fifth-biggest global bank by one recent accounting, “obviously has bigger fish to fry,” the Daily Mail notes. It claims HSBC is lining up a takeover offer that would be worth $65 a share – a 35% premium to Monday’s closing price.

Northern Trust didn’t return a call seeking comment, but some details in the Daily Mail potentially undermine the report’s trustworthiness.

For one thing, it wrongly calls Northern Trust a California-based financial services group. For another, it claims the stock has “perked up recently on takeover speculation” – which was untrue when the report was posted Monday evening.

Northern Trust shares have closed between $46 and $50 every day for the past three months, with three exceptions in which it ended within 50 cents of those closes. By no standard does that rise to the level of perky, I’m afraid.

None of this is to question the quality of the journalism being done at the Daily Mail, mind you. Its lead story Tuesday morning bears the headline “Mother accused of murdering five of her newborn babies and keeping their bodies locked in a closet for up to 14 years.” While you’re pondering the implications of that one, be sure not to miss the hard-hitting, fully illustrated report on the shirt Demi Moore was wearing at some party the other day.

Anyway, the M&A hypefest has driven Northern Trust's volume well above its daily average at midmorning. Even so, Northern Trust will have its work cut out for it posting a close above $50. The stock was up $1.95 at 11 a.m. EDT at $49.97.

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