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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Only Thing We Have To Fear

Eight hours ago, this appeared on the USA Today Twitter feed:

#BREAKING Stocks fall further at the open as Russia-Ukraine fears grip markets; Dow down around 50 points.
It's the phrase "fear grips markets" that caught my eye, because it's completely out of proportion to what actually happened. Now I have to step into my alter-ego as Mr. Perspective to call bullshit on that claim by The Nation's Newspaper.

Before the markets opened today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was around 16,430. A drop of 50 points is about 0.3% of that figure. That's not unusual. Even if you add a zero and the drop was 500 points, that's only 3%. Neither of those circumstances, certainly not the way the markets opened today, qualifies as being gripped by fear of anything -- except fear-mongering by a media outlet. Your portfolio (or, more likely, your IRA or 401k) was completely unaffected and you had nothing to be afraid of.

For too long, news outlets have been obsessed with reporting the Dow's figures throughout the day (e.g. every hourly network radio newscast), as if they mean anything to average investors. Worse, they don't offer any perspective on how insignificant these increases and decreases are. Of course, if the DJIA were to drop a thousand points in a day, then you'd have a real story and could bring on all the phony-baloney analysts to explain what happened (they wouldn't have a real answer, but they'd have all sorts of theories, none of which they'd be held accountable for).

By the way, when the markets closed today, the Dow was up almost 14 points, which is less than 1%. I guess that whole Russia-Ukraine thing is over. Or at least the fear-mongering regarding it is on hold.

Until tomorrow's crisis, which will also have little effect on the Dow, if you keep things in perspective.