Whenever I catch the midday hourly news on the radio, I can’t wait to hear the stock report. Typically, I hear it on my way to lunch or back from lunch. My commute coincides with the final minute allocated to local news on the jazz, country, or greatest hits of the 60s-70s-80s-90s-and-today radio station. I’m always eager to hear the instant analysis of a bored local brokerage functionary or the economic epiphany suffered by the newsreader.
“The stock market is down at this hour…” the deep FM voice narrates. Quite frankly, the day traders who inflated the stock market bubble at the end of the last century didn’t rely on radio to make decisions. The Internet allows people to check the instant progress of their individual portfolios. The day traders who are still trading, instead of flipping burgers or bagging groceries, have access to mystical Level-2 quotes, which are somehow better than simple quotes everyone can get on Yahoo! So FM Man is talking to himself, and me, alone in my truck at a stoplight.
“…as investors react to the latest White House pronouncement / War on Terror speculation / forgettable Reality TV Show decision….” The professionally-trained or university-radio-station-warm-body intones. I’m unclear on what authority the newsreader makes this prognostication or diagnosis, but it’s probably right. Short-term reactions in the marketplace include short-term investors who react to the slightest jostle in the world marketplace by shrieking that someone has picked their pockets. Employment has dropped to 94.2 percent? SELL SELL SELL! The guy on the radio says the market’s down? SELL SELL SELL!
Of course, those who sell on whatever macroeconomic metrics arrive from political, pop cultural, or sociological sources don’t consider the nature of their individual investments. They lose sight of the long-term prospects of the companies of which they have become a part and in whose long-term direction they, as investors, can exert some small amount of control. Instead, they try to be the head cows in the stampede into or out of a bull run on Wall Street or Main Street, or wherever investors huddle. These short-sighted investors react to the lemming clarion call of astrological percentages and to the deep, comforting voice on our radios that makes it into a daily catechism.
“The Dow Jones is down 56.75 points and the NASDAQ is down just under 10,” the fickle fate of Frequency Modulation reports. These numbers represent a selective representation of how certain big name firms, selected especially for their big names, traded that day. Personally, I don’t own anything indexed by Dow Jones or the NASDAQ exchange, so their numbers don’t tell me whether I can retire in 40.2 years or 45.9; instead, they tell me something else, of what I am not certain, but the helpful newsreader and his or her friendly analysts will color the results for me, Joe-Six-Pack-of-Guinness, to understand.
That simple hourly report, crammed into five seconds, fails to capture the state of the United States or world economy. Instead, it only represents the latest sports score in the never-ending playoff between the Bulls and the Bears, played on the limited field of the indices. I can chuckle, or cluck, at the purported performance, but I know the current, somber market report has little impact on my ragtag fugitive fleet of bonds, equities, and mutual funds. By the time the announcer breaks for the updated weather forecast, his prognostication for financial well-being will be as irrelevant as it is forgotten.