Sunday, April 24, 2005


My guilty pleasure of the daily paper is the business section, because it is such a trip into the Twilight Zone. You might think that the sports page is the press's haven of blind optimism and rampant home-town boosterism, but it has nothing on the business pages.

Seriously. Here's a section where news of layoffs is greeted with elation and lower unemployment is cause for concern. Where the announcement that an airline is packing more seats on its jets is held in high regard, while failure to offshore your phone support is seen as a betrayal to sound business practices. And it's where the latest business crime is regarded with shock, simply shock that such bad apples could be found in the halls of commerce.

And then there's the DOW average. Some people check their horoscope - I look at the DOW. I don't have stocks directly (like most of the country, I do funds, who is turn invest in stocks), and I don't follow even the local heroes on a daily basis. But I look at the aggregate as a mark of how we're doing.

And the current verdict is - not as well as we would like. We've been running in place for a couple years, always stalled at the mid-10,000s. Sometimes higher, often (such at as the moment) lower, but always ending up around 10.5 k.

I had the entry written for when the DOW would hit 11,000. Really. I felt it only right since I was bagging on it as it was hanging around at 10k levels, then put up a shoot towards 10,500 (to much hoopla from the business press), then slouch back downwards. Yet for much of the winter and spring, the stocks ratcheted themselves ever-upwards, buoyed, I think, in part that a great anticipated windfall in the form of Social Security Privatization. With that dollop of snake oil stalling out, and gas prices comfortably over 2 bucks a gal, inflation up and wages inert, the DOW has returned to the 10,500 mark, and now is below.

The amusing thing is that the most recent series of drops has been greeted on the business page with the stone-cold sobriety of just-the-facts news, while every good day gets headlines as the birth of a new boom. It's the Tinkerbell school of finance - if you applaud, it, the market will come back to life. It creates the odd illusion where there is great news that we reach the 10.5 level, followed by a long quiet period, followed by great news that we reach 10.5. The feeling of déjà vu doesn't seems to exist in the timeless boosterism of the DOW.

And that's why the business section amuses me.

More later.