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Whatever Happened To Google $1,000?

After Google beat analysts estimates in its October 2007 quarter, CEO Eric Schmidt had this to say:

When we look at it, revenue growth of course very healthy, both in and also in our AdSense businesses. And the seasonal weakness in traffic was milder than we expected on, which was a very pleasant surprise from our perspective. It is obvious to us that the search quality investments that we are making are paying off, particularly internationally, as we do better and better in almost every country.

This was boilerplate CEO-speak coming from management. But that was enough to send the lemmings on Wall Street into an unprecedented frenzy. I don't know if some of these guys made a habit of sitting in front of their computers with a pound of weed and a bottle of tequila at the ready, but they soon let loose with a round of jaw-dropping stock price predictions. Here's a partial list of the revisions:

  • Anthony Noto, Goldman Sachs: To $800 from $620
  • Jeffrey Lindsay, Bernstein Research: To $720 from $625
  • Jordan Rohan, RBC: To $725 from $690
  • Mark Mahaney, Citigroup: To $775 from $600
  • Heath Terry, Credit Suisse: To $800 from $600
  • Jason Helfstein, CIBC: To $700 from $690

    (The crazy thing is that three of the predictions actually materialized shortly thereafter. Shares of Google touched $741.13 on November 7, 2007.)

    But Dinosaur Securities analyst David Garrity, deserves special mention with his $985 price target. Thinking of posterity, he was considerate enough to include the following, um, analysis to back up his prognostication:

    "To the extent that advertising media distribution channels are being transformed by emerging technologies with the possibility that mobile advertising may ultimately become more significant than the current broadcast channel in spending terms," he writes, "GOOG in effectively penetrating the walled garden that wireless communications services have been until now is securing a strategic technology provider role that will allow it to meaningfully shape the progression of development in the space."

    Rereading that paragraph, I'm tempted to slam my head repeatedly against the wall until everything goes black. But let's wait because there's more. The hands-down winner in the Can You Top This? sweepstakes is none other than "Infectious Greed's" own Paul Kedrosky, who came up with a $1,000 price target on Google.

    People are increasingly screwy about Google's (GOOG) near-$1,000 share price. The latest example: The hoo-ha over a Bernstein analyst upping his target on the stock from $720 to $850. Sure, $850 is a big number, but it's not that much of a deal to go from $720 to $850, an 18% increase on a stock that has run twice that much over the last few months. Further, GOOG had already pretty much hit the lower target, and, like the rest of the street, the Bernstein is essentially playing catchup....And me? I'm sticking to my $1,000 GOOG price target, posited months ago -- to much scoffing -- on one of my CNBC appearances."

    So it is that Google closed at $318.78 Monday, slightly above its previous 52-week high of $309.44.

    So it goes in the Age of Cramerica. Got a crystal ball and an itch to yammer in front of a television camera? Boy, do we have the job for you. Become a Google analyst! Unfortunately, the few folks with foresight, such as the brilliantly prescient Nouriel Roubini, got drowned out by the hucksters and perma-bulls. Didn't we see much the same thing, circa 1998 and 1999? Unfortunately, history does have a way of repeating itself.

    Charles Cooper is an executive editor with CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years. A graduate of Queens College and Columbia University, Cooper began his career in journalism at the Associated Press before moving to technology coverage. Before joining CNET News, he worked at Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. He received the Excellence in Journalism award from the Northern California branch of the Society for Professional Journalists for column writing. In addition to his blogging and podcast appearances, he is a co-host of the CNET News Daily Debrief. E-mail Charlie.

    By Charles Cooper

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