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What: Shares of Gray Television (NYSE:GTN) were picking up static today, falling as much as 14% and finishing down 11% after the broadcast TV sector was downgraded by Wells Fargo this morning.
So what: The banking giant dropped its rating on Gray and three of its peers to Market Perform from Outperform, saying it expects a tighter regulatory environment going forward, which will slow down consolidation in the industry. Shares of Gray had gotten pumped up lately, more than tripling in 2013, but have fallen since then as the pace of mergers and acquisitions in the industry seems to have slowed down.
Now what: Specifically, Wells Fargo said it had spoken to regulators at the FCC and that it would not allow TV stations to jointly sell ads. On March 31, the Commission will vote on new regulations that could prohibit a single broadcaster from controlling two TV stations in one market or from sharing advertising staffs. A vote in favor could lead to divestitures in some markets. For Gray, this could mean we've seen the end of last year's buying spree, but I wouldn't jump to any conclusions until March 31. Look for the stock to move in either direction after the FCC takes its vote.
Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.