Clearwire Goes Cherry-Picking

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.

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At the time thisarticle 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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