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Check Out Line: Fewer analysts = shorter calls

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Check Out those quick corporate conference calls.

Anyone who listens to earnings conference calls (we at Reuters Shop Talk listen to dozens each quarter) knows they can drag on … and on … and on.

But these days, some companies have less to say since they’re not giving guidance or they are keeping mum on their plans in this shrinking economy.  Plus, with banks cutting jobs or closing down like Bear Stearns, there are fewer analysts around to ask questions at the end of the calls.

Borders had a conference call that clocked in at about half an hour on Friday morning, complete with questions from just two analysts.  During the previous two Borders quarterly calls four analysts questioned the bookseller.  Back in March, seven analysts piped in.  The company was also pretty quiet about its plans, choosing not to elaborate on financing talks with shareholder Pershing Square.

On Thursday, jeweler Zale Corp‘s call was less than 40 minutes as opposed to the usual hour or so.  Six analysts asked questions, down from seven during August’s call and eight back in May.

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