Clearwire Goes Cherry-Picking

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There's a spring in Clearwire's (NAS: CLWR) step today, thanks to a preliminary report full of hope and nice surprises. But the stock is still beaten-down like a Redskins fan in full gameday gear walking into the wrong sports bar in Dallas. And the floggings will continue until morale improves.

Shares jumped as much as 21.5% overnight after the 4G wireless network operator shared "selected preliminary" results for the third quarter. Revenue projections of about $332 million were just a bit above the analyst consensus at $324 million, and operating losses will be smaller than last quarter's. A $700 million cash balance is a $160 million reduction from last quarter and about half of the year-ago cash and investment totals, so the cash burn is slowing down. That's good news.

But the stock has a long way to go before erasing the damage done last week, when longtime 4G partner Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) said it will build a competing network and stop leaning so hard on Clearwire. The stock got a 40% haircut that day and is still down some 35% in five days despite this drastic jump. That's a long way away from a full recovery. To say that the stock "soared" today would be like calling the Zune a "huge success." It's more like a headless chicken taking flight -- an involuntary muscle spasm.

Expect this boost to reverse course when Clearwire presents the full results later this month. After all, the company was free to cherry-pick only the good stuff here, and the cherry orchard got a thorough shakedown -- each of the four bullet-point metrics highlighted a record or improvement of some sort.

Zoom out to a fuller view and you'll see the bad stuff, too. For example, Clearwire's cash burn hasn't always increased the value of its infrastructure dollar-for-dollar, so its total assets are actually declining. Don't expect that trend to end anytime soon -- if ever.

All things considered, Sprint and Clearwire are fighting an impossible battle against the all-consuming market forces known as AT&T (NYS: T) and Verizon (NYS: VZ) . If Ma Bell manages to merge with T-Mobile at long last, that would at least open it up for the underdogs to buy or sell each others' corporate bodies on the street, perhaps creating a respectable Franken-carrier as a third leg in the two-legged market. If not, well, it's a long way down.

I've already added an "underperform" CAPS call on Sprint to my all-star portfolio, and it's a mere oversight that I didn't do Clearwire as well. Mistakes were made. That error has been corrected.

Go ahead and follow my lead -- or, if you'd rather, go ahead and bet that Clearwire somehow bounces back against all odds. Either way, CAPS is fun, free, and exponentially more powerful the more voices join the chorus.

Don't lose hope just because Sprint and Clearwire look hopeless. I can show you one surefire winner in the mobile wars, and this free video report unveils another.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundholds no position in any of the companies discussed here.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of AT&T. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. You can check outAnders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him onTwitterorGoogle+, or peruseour Foolish disclosure policy.

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