HP may break up: Buy the stock right now!

Feb 05, 2013

FORTUNE -- Shares of Hewlett Packard (hpq) jumped in aftermarket trading today, following a Quartz story that the "HP board is studying whether to break up the company."

Actually, that was just the headline. The actual story is a noncommittal mishmash that includes such lines as:

The HP directors have discussed the details of a possible breakup scenario, but also the merits of the company staying whole, since a recovery seems to be slowly taking hold and its share price has gained steam since it fell below $12 last November.

In a Dec. 27 SEC filing, HP said it was evaluating “the potential disposition of assets and businesses that may no longer help us meet our objectives.” But the board has not formed a special committee to assess a breakup option and does not currently have plans to do so, the people familiar with the matter said.

In other words, the HP board of directors is doing what boards of directors are paid to do: Evaluating all possible options. Moreover, we already knew they were doing it (because they told us in the SEC filing).

Yet, some traders apparently feel this "news" is worth betting on. And it isn't the first time that such folks failed to read the not-so-fine print.

Late last month, BlackBerry (bbry) shares surged after Lenovo (lnvgy) chief financial officer Wong Wai Ming told Bloomberg that “We are looking at all opportunities -- RIM and many others... We’ll have no hesitation if the right opportunity comes along that could benefit us and shareholders.”

Never mind that the comment was milquetoast at best. The headline -- Lenovo Says RIM Bid Among Options to Boost Mobile Unit -- was enough to make fools part with their money.

Look, I understand the value of headlines. Particularly in an age of 140-character limits. But please remember this: The value you gain in trading right now rather than in the 60 seconds it would take you to skim the story pales in comparison to the value we can gain in goosing a headline to make it look super duper important. Trader beware.

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