I am no fan of CNBC. It's not just the insufferable pomposity, smugness and arrogance of its anchors or the faux frenzied reporting from the floor of the NYSE that I find offensive. It's how it works to mislead investors by providing so much misinformation. Great credit to Jon Stewart for taking them on and exposing their most memorable screw-ups.
The relentless self-promotion of talking heads posing as "financial experts" provides a steady stream of drivel that both confuses and alarms investors. CNBC understands that fear sells. It sells fear, masking as financial news.
The breaking point is its commercial for Jim Cramer, captioned "In Cramer We Trust." Over 600,000 viewers agree and they tune in to his inane show. Many of them rely on his advice.
NBC, CNBC's sister company, perpetuates the harm by having Cramer appear on otherwise serious news programs, like Nightly News with Brian Williams, a journalist I otherwise admire. For these appearances, Cramer appears to be on valium as he solemnly dispenses his version of financial wisdom, sans "boo-yas", references to "CramAmerica" and other nonsensical utterances which he rightly believes might not go down well with a more discerning audience.
Objective studies by Barron's and others conclusively demonstrate that Cramer's stock picks typically underperform the market. From May to December 2008, the market lost 30%. Investors who followed Cramer's advice would have lost 35%.
According to Barron's, there may be a way to profit from Cramer's recommendations: bet against them. One study demonstrated shorting his picks earned investors over 25% a month.
Here's the bottom line:
There is a reason for the self-confidence of CNBC's anchors and its Mad Money star: They are desperately hiding a secret. The network is premised on a fundamental lie. Watching CNBC is harmful to your financial health. No amount of information, however slickly packaged and promoted, will help you "beat the markets." If you figured that out, the money machine at CNBC would come to a grinding halt.
In stark contrast, CNN's Ali Velshi and Gerri Willis explain and educate, in a calm, reasoned and intelligent way. They make no pretense of providing "inside information" on stock picks and market timing. They elevate the discourse. CNBC lowers it.
Investors want to know if the market has bottomed out. The answer is: no one knows.
CNBC has not yet bottomed out, and that is contributing to the problem.
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