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Katya Kazakina kicked off a silly season of needless speculation about the causes of Sotheby's rise in stock price last week. As is natural for a Bloomberg reporter, Kazakina's story on Sotheby's stock hitting a 10-year high relied upon Wall Street analysts to explain the momentum. The problem with this approach is that none of the analysts who cover Sotheby's have been known to have any trenchant insight. Also, no sooner had Kazakina pointed out the peak in share value, it retreated with the overall market.
Absent from this discussion (that mostly repeats the corporation's own talking points) is the obvious driver of the overall rising stock market. BID is company that follows the broader market. Above is a chart of BID over the last five years—beginning a year before the activist fight to replace Sotheby's management—that shows the stock just now catching up the overall rise in the S&P 500.
If you want to know why Sotheby's stock is at an 10-year high, you don't need to look much further than the observation that the stock market is as an all-time high.
But there is so much more to it than that. Let's start with what the analysts believe to be the causes. A little close reading of their bullet points doesn't support much of what they say is driving the stock. More to the point, Sotheby's will release earnings less than a week. Then we will know a great deal more about the business and whether it is making real progress to raise earnings to a point that can justify the current stock price—or, even, a much higher one.
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