Investing is a passion of ours. We simply cannot get enough of insightful interviews with Expert Investors and Analysts. Some interviews we adore, some we like, some we dislike and some we abhor. So this year, we began writing a weekly article about video clips that we find interesting.
If you are an individual investor, you end up watching CNBC, Fox Business & Bloomberg for breaking news and interviews from expert investors. CNBC is the market leader; they get more of the best guests and so we tend to watch CNBC more than others. We have watched CNBC for years. This history and familiarity allows us to opine on CNBC shows, anchors and reporters with more confidence or so we believe.
So as we begin the investing journey into 2010, we thought it would be a good idea to present our own awards from a viewer’s perspective to CNBC guests, shows and anchors for 2009. Here we go.
I. Most Useful CNBC Guest of 2009
The award goes to Meredith Whitney. Simply put, Meredith Whitney has been in a zone for the past 2 years or so.
Ms. Whitney was correctly bearish in 2007. She was the first analyst ( or so we believe) to state publicly that Citi’s dividend was in jeopardy. She was absolutely brilliant in her bearish calls and listening to her could have saved investors a great deal of money.
But many seers were bearish on the economy, the credit bubble and the banks. So why single her out? Because, Meredith Whitney did not merely write reports or give opinions on TV, she made investors money, loads of money. That makes her special to us.
But what did Ms. Whitney do for us in 2009? This is a rhetorical question of course. In 2009, Meredith Whitney made tremendous trading calls, calls that worked and made CNBC viewers money. Her calls not only moved financials but moved the entire US equity market. Let us review a couple:
We rest our case and present the Macro Viewpoints Most Useful CNBC Guest of 2009 Award to Meredith Whitney.
II. Least Useful CNBC Guests of 2009 Award
This award goes to the entire guest list of equity mutual fund managers who come on CNBC to preach the tired theme of “buy stocks for the long term and hold them forever“.
We have been viewers of CNBC for a long time and these “equity fee collectors” have never changed their tune. They never see a bear market coming, they never protect the capital of their investors. They justify it by arguing that it is impossible to time the market. They used to tell viewers that stocks should be held for 5 years; when that did not work, they said viewers should hold stocks for 10 years. After the worst 10-year period ever for stocks, their ardor has not changed. Now they preach that after the worst decade ever, the next decade would be great for stocks.
These managers need to keep their client’s money invested in their mutual funds or their long-only portfolios because they need the investment management fees. This is why our nickname for this bunch is “equity fee collectors“. To call them money managers is an absurdity in our opinion.
Another favorite comment of these guests is “it is stock picker’s market“. Yet, for most of this crowd, their performance usually trails the market averages.
To this entire bunch, we present the Macro Viewpoints Least Useful CNBC Guests of 2009 Award.
III. Most Useful CNBC Show of 2009 Award
The award goes to Squawk Box. The anchors change, the personalities change but the show seems to goes on. Squawk Box has been the franchise show at CNBC for a long time. And so it was in 2009.
Month after month, Squawk Box tends to get the most interesting and insightful guests. Then it manages to get the best comments from these guests. As a viewer, we notice that guests seem more relaxed and open on Squawk Box than on other CNBC shows. As a result, the interviews prove to be more useful to us viewers.
The personalities of the CNBC Anchors add an interesting element to the show. The male anchors are openly envious of the fan appeal of Becky Quick. Joe Kernen is often vocal about it. Carl Quintannia has the task of keeping Joe Kernen in check when Joe threatens to veer off. Of course, Joe Kernen is too much of a pro to flame out on air but Carl pulling Joe back adds a fun element to the show. For his part, Joe Kernen sometimes accuses Carl for using Squawk Box as a placeholder while waiting to anchor the NBC Evening News.
Squawk Box is one CNBC show in which the anchors openly disagree with each other. But this is done openly and without rancor. This makes the show more enjoyable and less boring. Joe Kernen said on December 31 “We may be on CNBC but we are Squawk Box“.
We concur and present the Macro Viewpoints Most Useful CNBC Show of 2009 Award to Squawk Box.
IV. Most Useful CNBC Anchor of 2009 Award
The award goes to Maria Bartiromo. To be candid, we have not been fans of Maria Bartiromo over the years. She has a tendency to be a cheerleader for the stock markets and that, in our opinion, has hurt CNBC viewers in the past. Our nick name for Maria in 2007 was “GLG2“. Throughout 2007, Maria kept being ebullient about Global Liquidity and Global Growth. She was right. It was the pinnacle of the credit bubble. Global Investors were flush with liquidity and they poured it in any area that smacked of growth. It was a period when global growth seemed like it would go on forever. Maria Bartiromo was swept away in this euphoria as were all the other CNBC anchors.
But to give her credit, Maria never let her personal ebullience get in the way of an insightful interview with a real expert. We recall her interviews with Larry Fink of BlackRock in 2007. Larry Fink was prophetic in these interviews and viewers who listened to Mr. Fink in October 2007 protected themselves from the disastrous 2008 stock market bust.
Maria Bartiromo changed her tune and approach as she witnessed the ferocity of the 2008 bear market. This transformation continues to intrigue us. We do not know whether it is simply a trend-follower’s smart tactical move or whether it is a sign of a more thoughtful Bartiromo. But frankly, it does not matter,
In 2009, Maria Bartiromo brought us more useful interviews than any other single anchor at CNBC. Therefore we present the Macro Viewpoints Most Useful CNBC Anchor of 2009 Award to Maria Bartiromo.
V. Most Under-Appreciated CNBC Anchor Talent of 2009 Award
The award goes to Steve Liesman. As CNBC’s Senior Economics Reporter, Steve Liesman reports on all aspects of the economy including the Federal Reserve Bank and major economic indicators. Steve Liesman is a very good reporter and he delivers valuable insight about the Federal Reserve and important information about what his sources tell him about monetary policy.
In our opinion, Steve Liesman is severely underappreciated at CNBC. Besides being knowledgeable, he is witty and combative. Unlike most CNBC Anchors, Steve can take a ribbing or an attack. He can hit back as well as he can take a hit. And all this is done in good humor. He is frequently cast as a victim in his smackdowns with CNBC’s star Rick Santelli. He handles this role very well and that is a reason why the smackdown segment is such a hit.
Steve Liesman has another quality that many CNBC Anchors share. He can talk over anybody and can end up talking over his guests as well. He fits in very well with other CNBC anchors when he is called to substitute for a regular anchor.
Steve Liesman adds value to viewers and he is fun to watch. So we present the Macro Viewpoints Most Under-Appreciated CNBC Anchor Talent of 2009 Award to Steve Liesman.
VI. What about the “Least” category of Awards?
This is the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010. Every new year begins with hope, optimism and goodwill. Somehow, it seems inappropriate to darken our soul with negative thoughts or to hurt feelings of others with negative awards.
We also believe in criticizing behavior rather than the individual. During 2009, we have been vociferous in our criticism of behavior of many CNBC people and of their actions when we felt that the behavior and actions were detrimental to individual investor viewers like us. We think that, with our criticism, we are holding a mirror in front of the offending CNBC people. The purpose is to let them see the reflection
of their own actions from a viewer’s point of view.
We believe in personal reflection and redemption. We hope that CNBC Anchors would reflect on what we showed them in 2009 and try to be more mindful of our interests as individual investors.
In this context, we would like to highlight a favorite phrase at CNBC that we find particularly insulting.
VII. CNBC’s Most Demeaning Phrase of 2009
That phrase is “Retail Investors“. This is a phrase used on Wall Street Trading Desks. It does not signify respect. In fact, it is used to convey a total lack of respect for the individual investor. Frankly, it is used as a synonym for “moron” or “idiot“.
CNBC Anchors look up to Wall Street Traders and love to verbally joust with them. At heart, every CNBC Anchor wants the thrill of being a trader, we feel. So it is natural for CNBC Anchors to ape trader’s ways and to copy their lingo.
So every day we hear CNBC Anchors using the phrase “Retail Investors“. And they use it in the same condescending and demeaning tone. In fact, the less intelligent or less successful CNBC Anchors use this phrase most often.
We would like to point out that Individual Investors are not all alike. Every Individual Investor is different. Some are trend followers, some are mean-reversionists. Some are stock investors and some are bond investors. To dump all of us in the verbal heap of “dumb retail” is wrong and frankly stupid.
Individual Investors are the viewer base for ratings that generate CNBC’s revenues and margins. Individual Investors are the customers of CNBC’s largest advertisers, the Brokerage Firms. Individuals are the reasons for Comcast’s success, yes the same Comcast that will become the majority owner of CNBC.
So in our humble opinion, CNBC Anchors should begin to show a little respect to individual investors. Or at least stop insulting us by calling “Retail“. If we “retail” folks walk away from their network, CNBC Anchors might find that Wall Street Traders would walk away from them as well.
This is why we designate “Retail Investor” as CNBC’s Most Demeaning Phrase of 2009 and hope that CNBC Anchors will stop using this phrase in 2010.
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