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Will Anne Hathaway's role in "Rio" Boost Berkshire Shares?

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If you've heard this theory before, you know where I'm going with this....

Today marks the North American opening of the animated feature film Rio, by Blue Sky Studios (NWS.) Its celebrity voices include Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, and others. But only one of these names has the power to lift share prices at a company run by the world's most successful investor.

"When Anne Hathaway makes headlines, the stock for Warren Buffett's Berkshire-Hathaway goes up," reported director and writer Dan Mirvish in a HuffPo story last month.

Why? Mirvish's guess was that "all those automated, robotic trading programming are picking up the same chatter on the internet about 'Hathaway' as the IMDb's StarMeter, and they're applying it to the stock market."

His evidence:

On the Friday before the Oscars [hosted by Anne Hathaway], Berkshire shares rose a whopping 2.02%. And on the Monday just after the Academy Awards, they rose again, this time 2.94%. But it's not just an Oscar bounce, or something Warren Buffett may have said in the newspaper, or even necessarily something the company itself is doing (i.e. rumors afoot to buy Costco). Just look back at some other landmark dates in Anne Hathaway's still young career:

Oct. 3, 2008 - Rachel Getting Married opens: BRK.A up .44%
Jan. 5, 2009 - Bride Wars opens: BRK.A up 2.61%
Feb. 8, 2010 - Valentine's Day opens: BRK.A up 1.01%
March 5, 2010 - Alice in Wonderland opens: BRK.A up .74%
Nov. 24, 2010 - Love and Other Drugs opens: BRK.A up 1.62%
Nov. 29, 2010 - Anne announced as co-host of the Oscars: BRK.A up .25%

Mirvish's seemingly off-the-wall suggestion caught the attention of Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic, who decided to investigate further.

Writing for the magazine's blog, he said, " the more I thought about the strange behavior of algorithmic trading systems and the news that Twitter sentiment analysis could be used by stock market analysts and the fact that many computer programs are simply looking for tradeable correlations, I really started to wonder if Mirvish's theory was plausible."

Madrigal called John Bates, the computer wizard behind a company called Progress Software (PRGS), which helps create algorithmic strategies for hedge funds and other financial firms. To Madrigal's surprise, Bates didn't dismiss the "Hathaway Effect" suggestion.

"We come across all sorts of strange things in our line of business, strange correlations," Bates told the Atlantic. "And I've had a lot of interest in this for a long time because it's really often the secret source for certain hedge funds."

Companies are trying to "correlate everything against everything," he said. "The interesting, thing, though, is that it's all statistics, removed from the real world. It's not as if a hedge fund's computers would spit the trading strategy as a sentence: 'When Hathway news increases, buy Berkshire Hathaway.'" 

In fact, Bates, added, traders often don't know what their algorithms are doing.

So what will Rio, the movie -- already bringing in singing reviews  -- do for Berkshire shares this week? We'll find out Monday.  It's probably worth keeping an eye on Rio Tinto Alcan, whose LSE ticker is "RIO", too.

Another question: Will all the online cooing about "Anne Hathaway" as Jewel (the blue macaw) mean more to robo-traders than "David Sokol"? His name has yet to break into the IMDb Top 250.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.