Consumer confidence hit a six-year high in July, a widely watched gauge of sentiment showed on Tuesday, as Americans shrugged off falling home prices to focus on a healthy jobs market, instead.
The New York-based Conference Board said that its Consumer Confidence Index, rebounded to 112.6, its highest level since August 2001 when it recorded a 114.0 reading. That compared to a revised 105.3 in June. The July 24 cutoff for the preliminary survey of 5,000 U.S. households was before last week's stock market tumble, however.
It has to. A six-year high is bad enough; we surely can't afford to let the index get to an 8-year high, or someone might get the mistaken idea that the current economy is as good as or (heaven forbid) even better than the Golden Age of the 1990s (even though by a couple of respected measures it is).
What is it with Dems and hedge funds? Not long ago we learned that Mr. Two Americas worked for one. Today we find out, in a front-page profile in the New York Times, that Chelsea Clinton also works for a hedge fund.
But the Times was strangely shy about divulging the fact. Only those who persisted through 18 paragraphs and 977 words were rewarded with that noteworthy nugget. And even when the Times did get around to informing us, it managed to find a sympathetic spin to place on Chelsea's decision to work for what many liberals like to portray as the poster child for evil capitalism gone wild.
It seems the media know why the stock market declined recent. Some journalists are blaming this recent correction in the stock market on widespread credit problems and point to troubles in the housing market as evidence.
“[B]ut nothing is likely to unsettle the markets as much as more credit woes,” said NBC News correspondent Pat Dawson on the July 29 “NBC Nightly News.” “Any additional problems with mortgage defaults or companies trying to borrow and coming up short is likely to send investors running for the exits again.”
Last week's economic report couldn't have been much rosier. The economy grew at a faster-than-expected rate, faster than any time in over a year. But far from sparking runaway prices, inflation actually moderated.
But that didn't stop the Axis of Gloom, AKA the New York Times and its Beantown subsidiary the Boston Globe from publishing op-ed items this morning finding the cloud on the silver lining. A lugubrious Times editorial laments:
By the end of last week, any lingering hope that the housing downturn would be contained had vanished. As this week begins, signs of contagion seem to be everywhere . . . The fallout of housing-related turmoil is also likely to extend beyond financial markets.
The editorial ends with a call for closer monitoring of hedge funds.
Over at the Globe, liberal economist Robert Kuttner [pictured here] emits a sky-is-falling column "The crash that could come."
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Friday all devoted full stories to the fall in the stock market, touted as “the worst two-day point drop for the Dow in five years,” but barely had time for a sentence about the 3.4 percent second quarter jump in the GDP, the biggest in over a year. In fact, neither ABC nor NBC cited the specific 3.4 percent rise in the Gross Domestic Product, the measure which the AP on Friday described as the “best barometer of the country's economic fitness.” Not one of the three evening newscasts mentioned how the Dow is still well above the 13,000 level it broke through in April and none noted fresh good news on inflation.
ABC was the most negative. “Stock slide,” World News anchor Charles Gibson teased, “Wall Street finishes the worst week of the year down nearly 600 points.” Gibson soon highlighted that news, as he only alluded to the good GDP number, when he reported “the worst week for the Dow in five years. Even positive news on economic growth wasn't enough to keep investors from selling. Among other things, they had to contend with a battered housing market.” Reporter Betsy Stark agreed as she too only made a passing reference to the GDP: “It sure is, Charlie. In fact, buried inside that positive report on Gross Domestic Product today was more evidence of what economists now describe as an outright recession in the housing sector.” ABC didn't even put the GDP number on screen as Stark devoted her entire story to the impact of the declining housing market before concluding that “it increases the odds of a downturn in the overall economy since housing now accounts for roughly one in ten American jobs.”
And that's exactly how the mainstream press treated it. What goes down, must go down further. Even with the sour coverage on NBC and CBS on July 26, there were voices of reason that warrant commitment to the markets.
"So this is not a crash, if anything, it's a correction," said CNN "American Morning" business correspondent Ali Velshi. "It might not even be a correction; it might just be a stop on the way."
Wow, good news, even on CNN.
Others experts point at signs our economy is still in tact and still moving in the right direction as evidence not to panic.
A week ago, NewsBusters editor and MRC vice president Brent Baker noticed that ABC had a decidedly negative slant on the Dow Jones industrial average closing above 14,000 points, much the same as it did in April, when the DJIA cracked 13,000.
Ali Velshi needs a teleprompter. Maybe then he wouldn't misstate corporate earnings by billions of dollars.
“ExxonMobil reporting quarterly earnings of $10.26 billion a share, John. We’re on this and we’re going to continue to find out where that money is being made,” said Velshi during the 8 a.m. hour. of the July 26 CNN "American Morning."
In 1992, Bill Clinton successfully used a campaign strategy of continually focusing attention on the supposedly poor economy thinking that Americans typically vote with their wallets.
Of course, most intelligent people know that the recession actually ended in early 1991, and that this strategy would have failed miserably had the media not been complicit, and, instead, honestly reported economic realities.
Regardless, it appears media at this point are concerned that a strong economy and rising stock market might undermine Democrat presidential candidates in November 2008.
With that in mind, the New York Times' Tom Redburn wrote an article Saturday that diminished the importance of the economy in the upcoming elections, threw cold water on the premise that presidents have any impact on economic developments, and told readers to be much more concerned with - wait for it - the war in Iraq.
In fact, the article actually began (h/t Lynn Davidson, emphasis added throughout):
As NewsBusters has been reporting this week (see this and this), as the stock market hit new all-time highs, the media have been dour Nervous Nellies carping and whining about gas prices, the low value of the dollar, the housing slump, and the rising trade deficit.
Yet, there are a variety of issues that press outlets have conveniently ignored during this record bull run that not only explain rising stock prices, but also give a more accurate view of what is going on in the global economy.
For instance, Bloomberg was one of the only major media outlets Tuesday which reported record purchases of U.S. securities by foreigners in May (emphasis added):
Repeating the downbeat spin employed when the Dow Jones Industrials passed 13,000 in late April and ABC's reporter warned “we're actually overdue for a correction,” less than three months later when the Dow closed over 14,000, ABC's World News put the news into a “yes, but” framework. Fill-anchor Elizabeth Vargas on Thursday night led with the record high close, but fretted that “there's a good deal of worrisome economic news these days -- from sky-high gas prices to America's gaping trade deficit” and “yet,” she marveled, “the market keeps marching on.” Reporter John Berman began by emphasizing that though “the Dow went from 13 to 14,000 in just 3 months,” this occurred “despite those serious jitters about the U.S. economy: $3 gas, a major housing slump -- a drag on the U.S. economy.” Crediting the rise to overseas earnings, Berman pointed out that “while the economy in the U.S. is struggling along in a growth rate of less than one percent, it's racing ahead at nearly 11 percent in China with strong numbers in India, Russia and Brazil as well.” Vargas followed up on a gloomy note, raising “disappointing earnings reports from Google,” prompting Berman to predict: “It may mean that the mood tomorrow won't be quite so rosy.”
Thursday's CBS Evening News wasn't as negative as it was back in April, but in his generally upbeat piece Anthony Mason contrasted the American economy with the international scene: “The U.S. economy doesn't look nearly as strong. Retailers just had their worst month in nearly two years. Gas prices are rising. And house prices are falling.”
NBC proved to be a media anomaly on July 17, leading its “Nightly News” broadcast with the record-high close on Wall Street and admitting that the stock market does benefit “a majority of Americans.” This historic bull run by the stock market was virtually ignored by other media. Katie Couric briefly mentioned it on the CBS “Evening News,” and ABC “World News” ignored it on July 17.
On today's "Your World with Neil Cavuto," the host devoted a portion of his mailbag segment to viewers from across the fruited plain telling Cavuto of their local media outlets had ignored or downplayed yesterday's stock market closing. Cavuto noted that in contrast, a large market correction in February was blared on the front pages of the nation's largest broadsheets.
“In stock market terms alone, this is now the longest consecutive uninterrupted stock market rally,” said Lawrence Kudlow on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on July 13.
“It started in early 2003, so that’s four and a half years. And it’s incredible how much wealth is being created out there and it’s unfortunate, really – almost tragic – that the president just doesn’t get any credit for it at all because he’s got a lot to say on the economy.”
While Kudlow found the record worth cheering, the three major networks supplied "some worries" and "some dark clouds" to viewers on July 12. Each one offered its own spin of gloomy news following the record high closings of the Dow and S&P 500.
"There are still some dark clouds looming over this market," said correspondent Dan Harris on ABC’s "World News with Charles Gibson." "The housing market is in a slump, interest rates are rising and gas prices are ticking back up."
Billion-dollar returns just aren’t good enough for NBC. On June 26, the “Nightly News” attacked wealthy hedge fund managers for making high-risk investments and for trying to do business with the “vulnerable” upper-middle class.
Reporter Carl Quintanilla mentioned rich investors who want to become “hedge fund rich,” but then focused his segment negatively on such investment firms.
“[T]he people who run them buy mansions, art – paying themselves salaries of over a billion dollars in just the past year.”
But is there anything wrong with that? According to Quintanilla, they’re run by greedy people and too risky for “a new more vulnerable audience.”
“They are beginning to target the upper middle class – the reasonably wealthy professional rather than the millionaire or the super-rich,” said Columbia University Law Professor John Coffee.
While the relatively narrow Dow Jones Industrial Average has been achieving alltime highs for a couple of months, it took until last week for the broader S&P 500 index to beat its previous record of 1527. The index closed at 1536.24 last week.
Instead of writing up the big winners in the 77% of companies that have brought the index back from its 2000 low, USA Today writer Matt Krantz looked for dark clouds in on otherwise blue sky, taking an opportunity to focus on the index's losers who kept the index's recovery of value from happening sooner:
S&P's run leaves Wal-Mart, other big caps behind
For a quarter of the stock market, the celebration about the Standard & Poor's 500's charge back to record levels for the first time in more than seven years is an example of history being written by the victors.
Even though the benchmark S&P index last week finally took out its old high from March 2000, investors who own 23% of its stocks have completely missed out. A total of 115 stocks in the S&P 500-stock index are still below where they were in March 2000, according to data from Bridge Information and S&P. They aren't down just a little, either, but off 45% on average.
"At any given time, you're going to have companies that have one-off issues," says James Paulsen of Wells Capital Management.
Yeah guys, and that's why investing in a broad-based index of stocks in an index mutual fund is often a good idea for investors who don't have the time to evaluate and keep up with either individual stocks or actively-managed mutual funds. Zheesh.
Back on April 23, as NewsBuster Scott Whitlock noted at the time, ABC’s Diane Sawyer fretted about the supposedly sky-high stock market. “Is this the thrill before the meltdown?” she panicked. “What should you do this morning to protect your money?” ABC's on-screen graphic ridiculously wondered: "Is Unstoppable Market Good or Bad?"
Today, an Investor’s Business Daily editorial mocks Sawyer’s Chicken Little approach. “We’re still waiting for the ‘meltdown’ that ‘Good Morning America’ stock guru Diane Sawyer was warning us about a month (and 600 Dow points) ago, when she devoted a segment to what we should do ‘to protect our money.’”
In the unlikely event John Edwards is elected the next president of the United States, don't look for Dee Dee Myers twirling on the dance floor with him at the Inaugural Ball. Appearing on this morning's "Today," the former Clinton press secretary took some serious shots at the former senator from North Carolina.
At about 7:08 am EDT this morning, Meredith Vieira began a tour of the presidential horizon with Myers and conservative commentator and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham. Talk turned to Edwards, and Vieira framed the issue in a manner not particularly flattering to the ex-trial lawyer.
As already noted on NewsBusters, Diane Sawyer made an absurd comparison on Tuesday’s "Good Morning America" when she linked the current rising stock markets with the period of time before the historic 1929 market crash. The GMA host, talking to ABC analyst Mellody Hobson, fearfully wondered, "Did you know that the stock market has hit a milestone reminiscent of what happened before the big crash?"
Except, it’s not at all reminiscent of the "big crash." From 2000, through 2007, the Dow rose from 10, 577 to 13, 312. That’s an average annual increase of 3.7 percent. In the seven years prior to the 1929 crash, the market spiked from 100 to 381, growing over 40 percent yearly. The rate of increase is over 10 times more than the current levels.So, when Sawyer concluded that "1929 was the big crash and this is reminiscent of what happened before that," her comparison isn't just wrong, it's also nonsensical.
With gasoline prices going up, Diane Sawyer worries they will continue to rise. With stock prices going up, the same Sawyer worries they will experience a crash of historic proportions.
Sawyer's guest on Good Morning America today at 7:15 AM EDT was Mellody Hobson, a GMA financial contributor. Here's how Sawyer kicked things off.
GMA CO-HOST DIANE SAWYER: Will runaway gas prices keep soaring, and did you know that the stock market has hit a milestone reminiscent of what happened before the big Crash? Let's start with gasoline prices. On Monday the average price of gasoline hit $3.05 per gallon, just two cents less than the record. . . Is this going to keep happening, keep going up?
Did the Dow’s ‘Bull Run’ Milestone Get to Your Paper’s Front Page Today?
Front page? Heck, the overwhelming odds are that it didn't get mentioned anywhere.
It should have been.
At CNNMoney.com, writers Alexandra Twin and Steve Hargreaves appear to be the only ones who even recognized the significance of yesterday's positive market close (bolds are mine):
Dow: Longest bull run in 80 years Major gauges hit new milestones, but just barely; investors mull jobs report, oil prices, talk of a Microsoft-Yahoo merger.
May 4 2007: 4:09 PM EDT
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Dow Jones industrial average squeaked out another record high Friday, making this the longest bull run in 80 years, as investors cheered tame inflation numbers, talk of big mergers and a jobs report that appeared just right.
..... The Dow has now risen in 23 of the last 26 sessions, marking its longest bull run since the summer of 1927, when the indicator ended higher in 24 of 27 sessions, according to Dow Jones.
On Friday’s "Good Morning America," co-host Robin Roberts complained about the "staggering" salaries of American CEOs. Citing a new Forbes magazine report claiming that these individuals received a 38 percent raise last year, Roberts engaged in typical class warfare. She incredulously stated, "It has us saying, come on, you must be kidding."
Reporter Dan Harris and guest William Baldwin, editor of Forbes, listed several examples of supposedly outrageous CEO salaries and proceeded to divine who deserved such money and who did not:
Dan Harris: "Even the editor of Forbes has some trouble stomaching some of the things his staff uncovered this year. Oddly enough, number one on the list is Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, who makes just $1 a year in salary."
As the stock market has continued to regularly make new highs in 2007, how many times have you heard or read a media report carping about how the rich are getting richer?
Quite a bit, right?
If you feel bombarded with such inanities, consider that a completely unaudited LexisNexis search of major American media outlets identified 234 reports which included phrases like “rich get richer,” “income inequality,” “wealth disparity,” etc., since January 1.
Add it all up, and that’s almost two a day.
A fine example of this nauseating mantra was demonstrated by CBS’s Charles Osgood on “Sunday Morning” April 15:
On April 25, 2007 the Dow soared to another record close, this time above 13,000. As Newsbusters reported here, here and here, the networks did anything but cheer. In fact, network broadcast reporting of the Dow's recovery since 2003 has been marked by pessimism.
Katie Couric introduced the April 25, 2007 CBS "Evening News" report with this dismal statement:
"Even as investors are making money in the market, Anthony Mason reports there are concerns tonight about the rest of the U.S. economy."
Mason made good on Couric's tease, with a class warfare remark that "Wall Street and Main Street appear to be headed in different directions" because of housing and gas prices.
Answer: When the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) keeps on issuing monthly reports, such as the one yesterday covering April, telling us that manufacturing is in expansion mode.
On February 28 (second item at link), Times Business writer David Leonhardt wrote the following:
For Manufacturing, a Recession Has Arrived
The nation’s manufacturing sector managed to slip into a recession with almost nobody seeming to notice. Well, until yesterday.
To this day, Leonhardt appears to be the only person to "notice" the recession in manufacturing -- because it doesn't exist.
The TimesSelect current tease for Leonhardt's article, which is now behind the Times' subscription firewall, is even worse, leading one to think that it tells us that the whole economy is in recession (bolds are mine):
According to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani committed "terrorism" when he suggested that the country would be "playing defense" if a Democrat was elected president in 2008. And this is the network that’s hosting a Republican presidential debate?
On Monday, an ABC graphic provided a shining example of media bias. Co-host Diane Sawer was discussing the recent surge by the stock market. During the segment, a graphic below her read, "Will Dow Hit 13,000 Today? Is Unstoppable Market Good or Bad?"
"Good Morning America" reacted to the departure of Rosie O’Donnell this week by claiming that the left-wing comedienne was a pioneer for women. (The morning program also ignored her 9/11 conspiracy theories.)
Producer of an MSM morning news show? Got a few minutes to fill at the end of your first half-hour? Why not resort to a tried-and-true winner: a bit of good old class warfare?
That was the "Today" formula this morning. Matt Lauer introduced the segment, enviously entitled "Share the Wealth?: The Rich Get Richer," fanning the flames of envy and resentment with this opener:
TODAY CO-HOST MATT LAUER: Do you feel like you're working harder and harder nowadays just to stay financially afloat while fat cats get richer and richer? It's not just a feeling, and you're not alone. The story now from from CNBC's Scott Cohn.