September 11, 2008

United Shares Climb After News Debacle

A computer program assigning dates to news stories was partly to blame for a sell-off of United Airlines stock Monday, a Google spokesman said.

Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker said a 6-year-old story concerning United filing for bankruptcy was picked up from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Web site by the Google News search program after it was identified Sunday morning as "Popular Stories Business: Most Viewed," the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

Tribune Co., which owns the Sun-Sentinel, couldn't explain why the archived story was suddenly receiving "clicks."

However, "after the story appeared on Google News, traffic went through the roof," Gary Weitman, a spokesman for Tribune Co. said.

A researcher at Income Securities Advisors forwarded the story, "UAL Corp: United Airlines files for Ch. 11 to cut costs," to the Bloomberg news service, which ran the 6-year-old story with the new date, Sept. 6, 2008.

Investors quickly jumped into a frenzied selling position, prompting Nasdaq to suspend trading of United shares temporarily Monday.

Share values plunged from $12.30 to about $3 per share. They have since climbed, although remain about 10 percent below they were when the trouble began, the Tribune reported.