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The Business Press Maven, as you well know, tends to see the glass as half empty. Moreover, I see spots on the glass and usually point out that you paid too much for it and, further, the business media is dead wrong for calling it a cup.
So with the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
making a new high Tuesday, guess what I think this morning?
Well, you're wrong. I'm generally satisfied with the tone of the coverage, and I think it bodes well for the market.
But before I show you some examples of how coverage has been relatively tempered, allow me to pontificate for a moment about why nothing is a better indicator of a market's direction than the tone of coverage.
The business media, as a professional entity, should be operating on a higher plane than the general public, but with its many flaws, it does not. As a result, what you see, read and hear tends to be a near perfect reflection of market sentiment.
When the boys and girls at
could not contain their glee at new highs in 2001 -- and also the fleeting one set this past January -- it was reflective of an overly excited public. And overexcitement is always weaned out of high prices with lower ones.
But simply saying that public sentiment is reflected in business media coverage does not go far enough.
The business media, despite their flaws, are influential enough that they also drive public perception. In other words, it's a self-fulfilling cycle. Got that?
They're no better than us, but they hold the power to sway us.
This is all a fancy-pants way of saying if you follow the business media when they are gloating about new highs, you will be sucked in -- before losing all your marbles.
But I have to say that this time, the business media are, with some exceptions, not displaying much giddiness.
In fact, the
Los Angeles Times
a lack of giddiness in its headline: "Dow's New Height Not as Giddy as the Last One."
The subheadline is equally sober: "Some say the revival of blue-chip stocks signals economic optimism. Others see hint of fear."
The lead all but calls the new high lame compared to the performance of other financial categories.
Up pretty high is this summary of expert opinion: "They read it
the new high as the final chapter in the market's recovery from the last recession, signaling that another downturn looms." And, "no one is predicting a return to the heady days of early 2000, when stocks ruled the investment landscape."
Neither is The Business Press Maven. But it does encourage me to see so much trepidation on the lips of the business media.
The New York Times
, even the
has a less-than-celebratory clause: "Dow Index Hits a New High," the headline begins, but instead of saying some form of "Break Out the Bubbly" it adds a flat "Retracing Losses."
Those same "heady days" of early 2000 are mentioned, here in the second paragraph, and also as a contrast.
In the paper's
, Floyd Norris concentrates on the underlying weakness in so many Dow stocks.
About as positive as he gets? The line, "Of course, it could be worse."
How high is public interest in the Dow's high?
To The Business Press Maven's everlasting happiness, it hardly appears overdone, as evinced by the fact that by early Wednesday morning, no one had responded to Norris's blog entry, which was posted late Tuesday afternoon.
The Financial Times
gets a little excitable with a
that describes the index as soaring to a new high, but its first sentence points out that broader market indices are still well below their peaks.
Wall Street Journal
that got a bit celebratory did good to point out that adjusted for inflation, this is not really a peak.
opining about how the economy was headed for a fall.
Such measured reactions to the Dow's new high and examples of pessimism abound. Not that there wasn't some low-grade craziness around the edges: One
segment waxed breathless about a "historic number" -- it might be history by the end of this morning if the market plummets and we don't see it again for five years -- but that wasn't even the worst offense.
The Business Press Maven always feels like his veneer is starting to peel when he sees the business media rounding up two interview subjects: one who thinks one way and one another. There is such a manufactured, ginned up, on-one-hand-on-the-other-hand quality to this, but about the only thing that's worse is watching two people who agree on an issue.
did in one
, interviewing the bullish Patricia Chadwick of Ravengate Partners and Roger Tutterow from the Henssler Financial Group, who is barely a bear.
Instead of watching that, click over to a scintillating
with Playboy bunny Courtney Culkin who, in addition to other talents, is a great stock picker.
Culkin is up 35% for the year in a stock-picking contest, leading not only nine other Playboy bunnies, but also most fund managers in America. Her top picks are the shoemaker
, which makes women's clothing.
She invests like Peter Lynch in what she buys. When she talks about buying what you wear, I couldn't agree more.
A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children.