Are investors’ prospects being damaged by the American business media?

28th November 2011

He is upset at both the right and left wing media. But his big issue is whether the media get to the heart of the matter before clouding the argument with diatribes or at least jibes against US government policy. His particular focus is the business news network CNBC which he views as on the right.

The interloper is concerned that several assertions made by CNBC commentators should not go unchallenged – one being whether the state sponsored mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and not the banks were responsible for the financial crisis. He writes "To state again and again that because Fannie and Freddy contributed to the global financial crisis that they were a primary cause, and the banking system was largely innocent, is patently false.  To state again and again that because tax increases would not be good economic policy at this point, and that this automatically means that fiscal spending should also be prevented at all costs, is similarly destructive."

He is, however, also concerned that issues such as the dreadful stock performance of Bank of America and what he fears may be the genuine exposure to the eurozone through shadow banking is not adequately reported nor analysed.

Some of interloper's commenters suggest that news networks experts should have to declare their ten largest holdings before appearing on any TV station which might alert people to any bias.

But it is definitely not the first time the issue has been raised. Way back in 2009 on Salon.com, Bill Clinton's former Labor Secretary Robert Reich suggested that the right wing in American politics was gearing up to blame President Obama for the woes of the Dow Jones.

"Is Obama responsible for the meltdown of the Dow? The consistently wrongheaded Wall Street Journal's editorial page says so, as does Republican Fox News, CNN's reliably demagogic Lou Dobbs, and now CNBC (where, full disclosure, I frequently appear as a token liberal). CNBC's Jim Cramer, who bloviates nightly about stock picks, says Obama is pushing a "radical agenda" that's destroying investors' wealth. My friend Larry Kudlow, who rants nightly about nearly everything, says Obama is destroying capitalism. CNBC reporter Rick Santelli's ballistic nonsense about Obama's mortgage plan made him a pop-populist icon for a week or so," he wrote.

But such criticisms go further back than that. A decade ago, in an influential book "Dot Con: the greatest story ever sold", British New Yorker magazine journalist John Cassidy reserved some harsh criticism for CNBC, suggesting it ran with the bulls and not with the bears, though he reserved more of his ire for Wall Street sell side analysts.

But it is not all bad news. On State of the markets.com, the underground trader gives a list of who he trusts.  However although he admits watching it, he has this to say about CNBC.

"I freely admit to watching CNBC, or at least having it on in the background, throughout the trading day, and do enjoy many of their programs. But I take everything said in the way of market commentary with a huge grain of salt, with special scepticism for their "guest contributors"."

He adds some more general advice at the end of the post with a number of points. Here is one of them.

"You will frequently hear an on-air "trading" commentator saying they might buy or sell XYX Company going into earnings. They may well be right in their call. But I can guarantee you they got into their position at a better price than you now can and they might be out of it in the after-market, minutes or hours after you heard this comment."

US amateur Wall Street watchers should perhaps pay heed but it is probably less of an issue for the televised media in the UK, with very little interest from the wider public, apart from Mr Peston of course.

 

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