At exactly 9:30 a.m., weekday mornings, a group of people stand on a balcony above the New York Stock Exchange. They "ring the bell" and the day begins. It's a money horse race. A big clock tracks time to the second. Letters, numbers, plus and minus signs swirl by.
Money news is everywhere: On radio, financial reports at 26 and 56 minutes after the hour; on TV, stock info scrolls by underneath the news; at the bank, money shows like "Power Lunch" and "Closing Bell" play on big TVs to mesmerize you while you stand in line. Even when I'm on the elevator, tiny screens show news, weather, sports and stock updates. By the time I exit that elevator, I'm nauseous.
Standard and Poors. NASDAQ. Dollar-yen ratios, points, downdrafts, and all that yelling from the trading floor. The money reports blast by with a crisp efficiency. What does it mean?
I don't know, but when the Dow is up I go, "Oh, good. The Dow is up." It's the "The Emperor's New Clothes," a bad production of Shakespeare and most Sam Shepherd plays, all rolled into one. You nod and look pensive and laugh at the appropriate moments, but you don't get it, but you don't want to admit you don't get it, so you pretend you do get it. A market matrix? Hard currency? Commodity ETNs? Say what?
Here's what I do get: The big crash of '29, layoffs, energy prices, overpaid CEOs, price increases. But I'm confused when a company announces it's cutting thousands of jobs and then its stock goes up. That's a robust economy?
And now media mogul Rupert Murdoch is in talks with the Bancroft family to buy the Dow Jones and Company. So if he takes over The Wall Street Journal, will stock listings share the page with a picture of a starlet in a bikini?
When I was growing up, we used the business section to line our kitty litter pan. These daysm with 401ks, we rely on the stock market for our retirement. But you'd have to be an economist to understand consolidated trades or Light Sweet Crude.
Couldn't someone make it easier for lay people to understand how the market works? What's the big secret?