A veteran Institutional Salesman at a major Wall Street Brokerage Firm has been a long acquaintance of ours. This man’s job was to listen to the morning meeting at his firm and then call his clients with what the analysts. A few years ago, in a moment of candor, this wise man told us that his firm had over 100 analysts and it was impossible for him to read what each analyst wrote. So how did he do such a good job of deciding which calls from which analysts to highlight?
The answer he told us was sort of like the “tells” in Poker. He said he had observed the demeanor, the expressions and the past history of the analysts. So he was able to tell which analyst had the most conviction in the call. For example, one of his favorite analysts got more rude the more convinced he was about his call. Sometimes the analyst would tell the salesman “just shut up and buy it”. This was apparently the perfect “tell” for this analyst. Our friend the salesman would call his clients and go all out to get them to buy the stock.
We sort of have similar tells of TV anchors and their “expert” guests whom we have watched for the past few years. These tales have led to development of highly unscientific and entirely observational indicators. But surprisingly, these indicators have demonstrated a much better track record of success than “expert” recommendations from strategists and gurus. That is why we tend to watch as much Financial Television as we do.
Our standards are as rigid as they are elastic. We like “expert” Guests, TV Anchors or TV Shows IF they make us money or at least IF we would have made money had we listened to them. We like them more if they reveal an insight we would have not observed ourselves. And we adore Simplicity. We review these guests, anchors and shows every week in our weekly Interesting Videoclips articles.
In January 2009, we launched our annual Macro Viewpoints Awards for Financial TV Guests, Shows and Anchors from a Viewer’s Perspective.
In this article, we announce the Macro Viewpoints 2010 Awards.
I. Most Useful Financial Guest of 2010
Can there be any doubt about who deserves this award? Look back to labor day weekend. The stock market was down 14% ytd. It ended the year up 12%+. How wonderful would it have been if you had stayed out of the US stock market until labor day and then go long, very long the market around labor day? Surely one of the great Wall Street Strategists must have told you to do precisely that. You know they didn’t.
But one man did. Not quite on labor day but he did it on September 24, the day he was invited by CNBC.
How simple was his insight? He said if the economy got stronger, the stock market would go up. He also said if the economic data kept coming in bad, the Fed would do Quantitative Easing and then all asset classes would go up. We were impressed by the profound simplicity of the argument and featured it in our Videoclips of September 19 – September 25 .
His name is David Tepper. By his utterly simple yet prescient dictum (or the Tepper Theorem if you will), David Tepper took away the fear of the dreaded double-dip in the economy that had created the drop in the stock market. We saw his words comfort the market. Since that day, when a piece of economic data came in weaker than expected, the market went down a bit, for a bit and then promptly rallied because weak data meant more QE2. This is what we called the Tepper Corollary. It simply said buy dips on week economic data. Like so many cases in Mathematics, an actionable Corollary proved more useful than the Theorem from which it was derived.
The Tepper Interview and the Tepper Corollary proved more valuable, more timely and more actionable than virtually any Wall Street Strategist or Research. And unlike Wall Street Research, it was FREE. This is why we watch as much Financial TV as we do.
A veteran Macro Hedge Fund Manager once said, “if you make one really good call in a year, you have a good year”. Well, David Tepper made that really good call in 2010. If you followed his call, you made money, real money, sustained money till the end of 2010.
Therefore, we present the Macro Viewpoints Most Useful Financial Guest of 2010 Award to David Tepper.
II. Most Useful Financial Show of 2010
In our 2009 Awards article, we wrote:
We were persistently and intensely critical of CNBC Fast Money in 2009. We liked the premise of the show. But we were frustrated that it was not living up to its promise. We are now glad that we expressed ourselves so candidly.
Because, the start of 2010 created a new beginning at CNBC Fast Money. They augmented their trader team with real money managers like Gary Kaminsky, smart traders like Brian Kelly who put profits above ego. Through out the year, they added trader talent and kept the show fresh. This also made the 2009 team more alert and focused on investment performance. Fast Money now had deep bench and could rotate fresh players into the lineup. This allowed Fast Money to add a Half Time segment at 12:30 pm.
In 2009, we were critical of the Anchor Melissa Lee as well. This year Melissa Lee elevated her own game. The rapport and camaraderie between the trader team and Melissa is real and fun to watch. And Melissa Lee almost always subordinates her personal ego for the benefit of the show.
So we congratulate the entire Fast Money Team for their turnaround and present the Macro Viewpoints Most Useful Financial Show of 2010 Award to CNBC Fast Money.
We do have a constructive suggestion for CNBC Management. We feel they should add a 15-minute Fast Money Pre-Market segment between 8:45 am and 9:00 am. During this segment, the Fast Money Team can comment on the overnight action and on the economic data released at 8:30 am. CNBC Squawk Box usually finishes their own coverage of the 8:30 economic data releases by 8:45 any way. So the loss of the 8:45-9:00 slot should not detract from their 3-hour show.
III. Most Useful Financial Anchor of 2010
We regret being boring but once again, this award goes to CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo. As we go through our weekly videoclips articles for 2010, we are struck by the diversity of “expert” guests that Maria brings to us. This is our first requirement. We get tired of listening to the same “spiel” from the same guests that appear again and again on some shows. This year, Maria managed to keep her show relatively fresh by bringing new “expert” faces to CNBC and some of these “new” folks actually managed to intrigue us. That is why her guests were featured in the Weekly Videoclips Articles more than guests of any other CNBC Anchor.
But the race for this award was much closer this year than it was in 2009. Other anchors have increased their “fun” quotient and made their shows more interesting to watch. The quality of guests of another anchor or two went up in 2009. But most other anchors invited “expert” guests who agreed with their own mindset. What differentiated Maria Bartiromo was the frequency and number of “expert” guests who were totally at odds with her own mindset and personality.
As an aside, we confess we are not personally happy with Ms. Bartiromo. She has cost us money, we think. Like our veteran Institutional salesman buddy, we have identified some “tells” of Maria that we rather elaborately called our proprietary “Maria Indicators”. These “Maria Indicators” have proved to be predictive and so we, perhaps in an act of bravado, wrote about these indicators in our weekly articles.
We should have remembered the old adage that “a watched pot never boils” or the lesson from high school Physics that the act of watching changes the behavior/location of the object that knows it is being watched. This is relevant because Maria Bartiromo changed her behavior in the latter part of 2010 and did not trigger any of our proprietary “Maria” indicators. As we said, we are not pleased. Hopefully, Ms. Bartiromo will revert to her earlier ways in 2011.
But as professionals, we overlook our loss of financial opportunity and present the Macro Viewpoints Most Useful Financial Anchor of 2010 Award to CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo.
IV. “Least Useful” Category of Awards
The New Year is a time for celebration and the time to look ahead with optimism. The world looks pleasant, inviting and full of promise to us as we write this article (perhaps due to the warm glow made acceptable by the venerable Art Cashin).
Regardless of the reason, we prefer to avoid negative sentiments at a time like this. Regular readers know that we tend to be rather explicitly critical during the year when such criticism is warranted.
Allow us then to simply restate our long standing complaint about guests who tend to be “equity fee collectors” or otherwise known as “long only & always fully invested stock managers”. We have never known this species to ever add any value whatsoever. They tend to come on Financial Television to get free advertising for their firms and to provide Financial TV networks with free content. We do not approve of this tax-free barter.
V. Most Demeaning Phrase of 2010
As in 2009, this phrase is “Retail Investor“. Financial Anchors, especially CNBC Anchors, love using this derogatory phrase. As we wrote last year , this phrase allows CNBC Anchors to pretend to be on the same wavelength as professional traders.
We must acknowledge that for the first few months of 2010, CNBC Anchors avoided using this phrase. During this time, we ourselves reached out to a so-called “advocate” of Individual Investors. To our surprise and regret, this man needed a long explanation to understand why the term “Retail Investors” was offensive. Eventually he got it, but felt that other concerns were more important to individual investors.
In a strange coincidence, we saw this man appear as a guest on a CNBC show shortly after our conversation with him. Soon thereafter, CNBC Anchors began using the “Retail Investor” phrase with gusto. Here we must add that a few CNBC Anchors including Maria Bartiromo, Erin Burnett, Jim Cramer, Larry Kudlow and Rick Santelli (lnac* order) never use this demeaning phrase, while some other Anchors repeatedly use it with jeering contempt.
We would like to state for the record that we still find the term “Retail Investor” demeaning. It could be that individual investors are so beaten down by all the contempt heaped upon them by CNBC & their brethren that they have suppressed their pride. Sort of like the folks in the South-Eastern USA and the “small people” remark of that BP muckety-muck. The oil spill was so huge that the insult was felt but did not rate in comparison.
Finally, we would like one, just one, CNBC Anchor to honestly tell us that she or he considers the term “Retail Investor” to be a positive description of us individual investors. When we find one such anchor, we will stop expressing our discomfort.
*lnac – last name chronologically correct
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