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Comcast Stock Hits All-Time High: Is Deregulation the Cause?

Variety logo Variety 11/23/2016 Oriana Schwindt
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Comcast stock hit an all-time high Wednesday morning. But on a sleepy Thanksgiving Eve, why?

Shares peaked at $69.92 before closing the day at $68.95, leaving the cable operator at a valuation of nearly $167 billion.

The explanation within closest reach is a sudden uptick in stories about a blog post written in October by Mark Jamison, one of two advisors on President-elect Trump’s transition team dealing with technology and the communications industry.

“Most of the original motivations for having an FCC have gone away,” Jamison wrote. “Telecommunications network providers and ISPs are rarely, if ever, monopolies. If there are instances where there are monopolies, it would seem overkill to have an entire federal agency dedicated to ex ante regulation of their services.” He finished by stating that the FCC itself is unnecessary, though an independent agency is not.

The implications, if Jamison or someone of like mind is selected to lead the FCC, are that businesses can expect increased deregulation — including the death of net neutrality — along with decreases in taxes.

“Comcast is in the right place at the right time in the Trump rally,” MoffettNathanson senior analyst Craig Moffett told Variety. “It is mostly domestic, pays relatively high taxes, and should benefit from deregulation.”

However, not all of Comcast’s gains can be laid at the feet of a presidential administration that’s promising big tax cuts for businesses and possibly massive deregulation of the communications industries. Comcast has been a strong performer in the last several quarters, adding video subscribers at a greater rate than most of its competitors, and losing them at a slower clip than the MVPD industry as a whole.

For Comcast, Wednesday’s high is more of a continuation of a general upward trend that began several years ago. More recently, the last three weeks have seen a fairly steady climb.

Additionally, the rest of the telecommunications sector stocks aren’t performing quite in concert.

AT&T has been climbing the last few weeks, which could be due to the impending launch of DirecTV Now as much as anything else — AT&T controls two MVPDs in U-verse and DirecTV. Dish and Charter are jumping around from day to day; Dish making back some of what it lost at the end of last year, with Charter climbing slightly since the summer. Verizon is slightly up from a six-month low, but still well under its July high.

Media stocks are similarly not holding to any sort of general pattern. Viacom was up but has come back down since last week. Disney’s waters are muddied because of the upcoming releases of highly anticipated films “Moana” and “Rogue One” (tickets for which are already on sale in the UK) — the price has been on a general increase after a big tumble at the end of last year. Time Warner has slowly been climbing, but since Nov. 14, rather than immediately after the election. Netflix had been on a bit of a slide after the election, but is still way up from before it released its Q3 results in October. CBS blew past a 52-week high on Tuesday, after mostly climbing for the last two months, but is settling back down. Fox grew after its Q3 results in early November and is mostly hovering around the same level, plus or minus a dollar.

The factors that affect an individual stock price are myriad and ever-changing. For the most part, these fluctuations are more akin to quantum foam, at least at the current moment.

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