The First Totally Honest Stock Market Story

The First Totally Honest Stock Market Story
By Vinnie Foster Wynans III
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal




The market rallied early this morning for reasons nobody understands and nobody predicted. CNBC analysts confidently asserted it had something to do with the Senegalese money supply but others pointed to revised monthly figures showing a poor tuna haul off the Peruvian coast.

The Dow turned down in late morning due to profit-taking—which is a meaningless phrase we financial journalists use when we don’t know what we are talking about.

Around noontime, the tech stocks rallied (perhaps a result of profit-giving?) before a late wave of selling sent stocks lower. (This wave of selling was miraculously met by a wave of buying since in each transaction there is one buyer and one seller.)

All in all, it was a normal day on Wall Street. Advances led declines by 4 to 1, the bond market was incomprehensibly boring, the Mets beat the Phillies 6 to 2, and Kate Winslet’s measurements remained 35-29-38.

For the bulk of this story as in most financial services stories, I will quote from a series of famous blowhards, all of whom predicted that this bull market would top out at 7500.

“Some of the young bucks think that markets only go up, and not down, opines Seymour Kaufman of Dean-Witter-Marcus-Garvey.  They’ve been misled by the experience of the past 17 years.

“Sure I’ve missed the last 6,000 points of the rally,” says Sherman McCoy of First Swiss-Credit Boston, who shifted his assets into gold last spring, “but when the correction comes, my position is going to be looking pretty good.”

“I thought the market was overvalued at 8000,” says Chris Clough of Travelers-Citicorp-Disney-American-Express-Baskin-Robbins-Lynch & Jenrette. “Now that PE ratios are 67 times higher, my argument is more intellectually coherent than ever.”

We journalists put these quotations into our stories to prove we are savvy old heads (even if we are 25-year-olds fresh from a wire service), but if you listen to any of the advice from these old goats you are crazy. In fact, if you have read this far into the story, you are nuts too.

Professional traders will know all about yesterday’s markets from their computer terminals, and they shouldn’t need a $37,000 a year journalist to spin it out for them. Normal investors shouldn’t read day-to-day market reports because it will only cause them to churn their accounts.

Elaine Garzarelli has to be mentioned in every market story so this is the paragraph in which I am doing that. Past performance is no guarantee of future results,” said Ms. Garzarelli sagely.

To fill out the rest of my space so I can go home I will now throw in a few company results, which you could read on the most active table if you were really interested. Microsoft was up 1/4. Dell was down 1/8. Motorola was down 2. Hi Mom. Exxon was up 3 1/8. If anybody would like a slightly used Exercycle, please call (212) 555-2000. Ford was up 1/2. Germany is invading Belgium. I see England, I see France, I see someone’s underpants. Bloomberg was off by 2 1/2.

Late news flash: the Clinton administration has signed a new incentives package with the American people that allows the president to sexually assault a stewardess every time the Dow crosses another 1000 barrier.


BR Notes: I mentioned this back in April, with full credit to Jason Zweig for preserving this wonderful gem. Bobs News tracked down the original via the Internet Archive to The Weekly Standard, Volume 3, Number 31 (April 20, 1998). The full text is included above. You can access the PDF of that issue here: Weekly Standard 4.20.1998.

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