Seagate's Sadistically Sad Story

The collective wisdom of the stock market is so often sadistic, giddily bidding up the stocks of companies in trouble when they cut jobs or sell poorly performing business units. Of course there's logic to such buying sprees: Painful moves such as these should boost profits long-term, which in turn should benefit investors.

Yesterday at the closing bell, the whips and chains came out at disk-drive maker Seagate Technology (NYSE: STX  ) . Seagate said it would cut nearly 3,000 jobs due to declining market share and pricing pressure. Investors celebrated like spectators at a late-night Amsterdam peep show, throwing enough money at Seagate shares in after-hours trading to send the stock higher by $0.20 per stub. The shares are already up more than 7% in morning trading.

The workforce reductions and other cuts will lower operating expenses by roughly $150 million, including a $50 million charge to earnings during the fourth quarter, which ends July 2. Seagate had been expected to report a profit of $0.01 per share, but now that's anything but assured.

Call me boring, but I get no pleasure from Seagate's pain, primarily because the company should be nabbing profits. Think about it. PC and server sales are spiking, with many of Seagate's largest clients reaping the rewards, including Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , EMC (NYSE: EMC  ) , Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , and IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) . And then there's Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPod, which has changed the rules in portable entertainment by using a small hard drive supplied by Hitachi (NYSE: HIT  ) instead of flash memory. Indeed, digital downloading has made hard drives more important than ever.

Despite the macroeconomic trends, Seagate and close competitors Maxtor (NYSE: MXO  ) and Western Digital (NYSE: WDC  ) have failed to capitalize. Inventory management has been a big part of the problem for Seagate, as fellow Fool Jeff Hwang reported earlier this year. Rick Munarriz followed in April with a warning that the commodity nature of the industry was likely to continue hurting the drive maker.

And yet, masochistically, investors continue to throw money into its stock. Frankly, it's difficult to watch. Some things really should be done in private.

Besides Dell, David Gardner has highlighted a number of outstanding companies forMotley Fool Stock Advisorsubscribers. To learn more, sign up for six months risk-free.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers, being an old-school tech guy, hates piling on Seagate. But he also hates to see investors' returns needlessly flogged. Tim owns no shares in the companies mentioned, and you can view his Fool profile here.


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