Today the DOW hit that crucial 12,000 benchmark, and it's worth taking stock of how the index's three media and telecom stocks have fared since the last time we saw 12,000.
AT&T, Verizon, and Disney have ended up in three very different positions two and a half years since the Dow's last peak. All have been hit by the economic downturn and pullback in consumer spending. But their respective rebounds — or lack thereof — is telling.
AT&T fared the worst of the three companies — its stock is off 21 percent since the Dow last hit 12,000. And it fell the furthest during 2009 lows. It's benefited from its contract with Apple for the iPhone, but it's suffered the ongoing loss of landline customers. And now one reason it hasn't rebounded: it's losing iPhone exclusivity to Verizon.
Right in the middle is Verizon — its losses were more moderate than AT&Ts during the dips, and now it's up three percent from where it started in June 2008. It eked out this gain thanks to ongoing strong wireless subscriber growth, which we saw again in the company's earnings earlier this week. Now the company's also benefiting from expectations that access to the iPhone and iPad will provide a huge revenue boost.
And Disney's atop the heap of these three—its stock is up 17 percent since June 2008. The company certainly took a hit from the economic downturn—the consumer pullback hurt the theme park and consumer products division. It also saw ad revenue move lower. And it struggled with some issues that had nothing to do with the economy — disappointing films dragged on the studio.
But Disney benefited from the strength of its brand and the diversity of the company — it's far less reliant on ad revenue than many of its peers. Disney's cable assets have remained particularly robust-- especially a division like ESPN, which is a valuable company and brand in its own right. In fact Disney outperformed all but one of its rival media giants since the Dow last hit 12k. In the same period Time Warner lost nearly 30 percent, News Corp fell 5.5 percent and CBS is nearly flat, up just a fraction of a percent. The exception is Viacom, which gained 44 percent since June 2008.
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