WASHINGTON, August 17, 2012 – Breaking news! Here’s a shocker this morning from the online pages of CNBC:
“Twice as many business executives around the world say the global economy will prosper better with President Barack Obama than with Mitt Romney, according to a poll out Friday.
“Democrat Obama was chosen by 42.7 percent in the 1,700-respondent poll, compared with 20.5 percent for Romney. The rest said “neither.”
“The result was different among respondents in the United States, where a slim majority thought Romney would be better for their businesses than Obama.”
The article’s headline prepared us for this astounding news, proclaiming: “Executives say Obama better for world economy: poll.”
The poll was conducted by the Financial Times of London (FT), which is not always on the ball when it opines on American politics, although it’s an excellent financial rag over all.
But here’s the catch: the FT headline, while echoing the lede of the article, is at once quite understandable and quite misleading. While the casual reader will gather from the hed and the lede that “executives” (of what caliber?) around the world prefer Obama, this isn’t really news at all.
In the first place, execs and world leaders almost always prefer the incumbent to the unknown who may replace him. Fear of the unknown is natural. And even if the known quantity—in this case, Obama—has not been very effective, he is, well, known.
More significantly, the FT’s poll proves, like nothing else, that your average corporate exec, particularly in a large company, prefers to have faux socialists in power who preach (and often execute) a populist or Marxist game while cleverly engineering tax dodges for said execs. That’s why socialists in Europe and, after roughly 1972, Democrats (aka socialists) in America are heavily supported by these execs via a phony, deeply corrupt, and long-running hoax on average voters who think the socialists are protecting them from the businesses that feed off the government (read “taxpayer”) funded tap.
So the FT poll is clearly no surprise. A Romney presidency would, de facto, upset the cozy crony capitalist cart, and the crony capitalists don’t want that. Never did.
But let’s look a little further into the numbers in this poll: 42.7% Obama, 20.5% Romney. Obama’s support does, in fact, exceed two times Romney’s total. But FT tells us that the rest of the poll’s participants voted “neither,” without, of course, doing the simple math for us. We did. And, unless our Mac calculator is malfunctioning, “neither” accounted for 36.8% of the adults.
This, of course, doesn’t help Romney’s cause, at least in this poll, whose methodology may or may not have a built-in bias. On the other hand, when you add the “neithers” to Romney’s total, you actually get a clear majority of participants who do not support a continuation of the Obama administration.
This is a handy lesson on how the media often cleverly hides the facts it digs up in plain sight. Simple math will tell you that both the hed and the lede of this piece are essentially misleading. Journalists today are killing themselves with their own transparent cleverness, and this is just one example of what’s going on. It’s the reason why they’ve soiled their profession to the point where informed readers don’t much believe them anymore when it comes to political reportage.
The Maven decided to write at length about this ongoing reporting phenomenon because it offers a cautionary tale about believing too much in what the media is pitching. Unlike “objective” journalists, the Maven generally wears his libertarian bias on his sleeve, so at least you know in advance where he’s coming from.
Media bias extends, unfortunately, to market reportage, which often uncritically parrots what X, or Y fund manager or analyst is preaching today. It’s always offered as helpful advice to investors. But increasingly, it’s becoming clear that most of these shills are “talking their book.” I.e., if analyst A is promoting the virtues of stock XYZ Corp., you can almost bet that analyst A’s firm is either working on a deal with XYZ Corp. and wants to keep the business; or, worse, that analyst A’s firm has been quietly shorting XYZ Corp. and wants to sucker more of you into a declining position before it pulls the trigger, causing a big tumble in the stock, big losses for you, and an even bigger gain for themselves as they profit on the downside.
Hopefully, this morning’s column offers helpful advice on keeping “news” items in perspective when making investment decisions. The sharks rule the Wall Street ocean right now. Actually, they always have, but the deck is stacked against the small investor even more these days with the algos and HFTs always lurking in the shadow, ready to pounce or, as happened earlier this week, to blunder into “flash-crashing” a single stock—in this case Dollar Tree (DLTR), hacking that stock down 10 points in less than a minute.
You can still make money in this market but mostly in boring and not very substantial ways. Moneymarkets continue to pay .07% or less, failing to exceed even today’s allegedly low inflation rates. REITs and utility stocks have been yield bulwarks lately, often boasting yield-returns of 5% (utilities) and 12% or more (REITs). But their prices have been under attack recently as the algos apparently believe a new bull market is imminent and are dumping safe haven stocks for more volatility. Time will tell.
We are still mostly in cash, as the situation in the Middle East, the paucity of current active traders, and the uncertainty of this fall’s election as well as the “tax cliff” make it tough to go all-in without trepidation.
Futures call for a tepid open this morning with a slight downside bias. But who knows what will happen when the machines decide to have their end of week, end of August options trading fun. Stay liquid, and/or, enjoy some of that liquidity at the beach this weekend. It’s probably your best investment right now.
Disclaimer: The author of this column maintains several active trading and investment portfolios and owns residential and investment real estate.
Positions mentioned above describe this author’s own investment decisions and should not be construed as either buy or sell recommendations. The current market is highly treacherous and all investors travel at their own risk, so caution should be exercised at all times.
Illustrations, charts, commentary, and analysis are only the author’s view of current or historical market activity and don’t constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any security or contract. Views, indications, and analysis aren’t necessarily predictive of any future market or government action. Rather they indicate the author’s opinion as to a range of possibilities that may occur going forward.
References to other reporters, analysts, pundits, or commentators are illustrative only and do not necessarily represent an endorsement of such individuals’ points of view. If specific investment vehicles are mentioned in any article under this column heading, the author will always fully disclose any active or contemplated investments in said vehicles.
Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.
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