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Have you ever noticed how some words in the English language are so perfectly named for what they describe? And how some words seem to be, I guess you could say, backwards? For instance, the word sunflower! How wonderfully aptly named is the sunflower, that beautiful yellow flower that follows the sun from sunrise to sunset.
And then there are those words in the English language where there meaning appears to be backward, so to speak - like parkway and driveway. When my car is parked at home, I would think it would be parked on, well, a parkway - and when I’m on the road driving somewhere, I would think I’d be driving on a – a driveway.
In the stock market world, I think the word analyst is a perfect word in the English language and stockbroker sounds right to me, too. And this leads me to what I call the ‘brainwashing mantras’ of Wall Street.
The brainwashing mantras of Wall Street may take the form of a number, such as a stock rating of 1, 2, 3 etc. Or the mantras may be a star, 1 star, 2 stars etc. The mantras may be a word or a group of words- attractive, unattractive, neutral, market perform, market out-perform, market under-perform, market under-weight, market equal weight, market over-weight, sector perform, strong buy, buy, sell, strong sell.
These mantras are so ingrained in Wall Street and investor’s minds that they have created multi-billion dollar industries. There are other types of mantras, such as RSI (relative strength index-a trading volume indicator), Bollinger Bands (named after its creator John Bollinger (he use to be a regular on CNBC) and the bands deal with the channels a stock trades in, in relation to its ‘moving average’- another mantra), Stochastics (used to tell if a stock is 75 % overbought - too many people have been buying) or 25% oversold (too many people have been selling), Momentum, MACD Convergence/Divergence- price of stock, up or down, in relation to its moving average), 50 day, 200 day moving averages, triple bottoms and tops, pendants, flags, bear and bull markets, head and shoulders formations, double bottoms, P/E ratios etc, etc, etc, etc.
All these mantras serve a purpose (and if you’re inclined to trade in the market they are, I admit, useful tools) - they create commissions.
And in my opinion, have no meaning what-so-ever for the long-term, dollar-cost averaging, buying investor of company’s shares, free of commission charges, whose companies raise their dividend every year, with the investor’s idea or purpose being to provide an 85% tax-free income, through ever-increasing dividends for the rest of their lives, no matter what the price of the stock at any given time in the market place may be. (Whew! What a sentence!)
Here’s another mantra that comes to mind – ‘consensus estimates’. The analysts that follow a company on Wall Street created this mantra. There may be three analysts or thirty analysts following a company and a consensus estimate of the company’s next quarterly earnings will be projected from these analysts. For example, last quarter the company XYZ had record earnings of 90 cents a share. The company’s consensus estimate predicted by the analyst for the next quarter is for one dollar a share. XYZ on the day the earnings are to be announced is selling at $40.00 a share. The earnings for the company are reported during the day and XYZ reported making 95 cents a share, missing the analyst consensus estimates of one dollar and the stock immediately drops to $38.00 a share. Never mind that XYZ had just made another quarter of record earnings, never mind that XYZ is paying a 4% dividend and has raised their dividend for the past twenty-five to thirty consecutive years (and three months from now the normally scheduled dividend increase will occur; after all, they’ll have the money to raise it again, with record earnings and all).
The only words that I can come up with to explain this type of stock price behavior after seeing something similar happen time and again through the years are ‘brainwashing mantra at work.’
I think I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the mother of all mantras – the mutual fund, though I hesitate to mess with this mantra. (They being soooo big in investor’s minds, and me just being a lowly gadfly on a dinosaur’s butt; it really shouldn’t matter what I say, one way or the other.) As I write this, some are in such a mess - caused by illegal trading practices costing investors tens of millions of dollars. One mutual fund has been fined $100 million, another $125 million. I wonder where they’ll get the money to pay the fine. I believe all investors in a fund pay the fund’s operating expenses, as well as the fund’s marketing and management fees. They are called ‘hidden fees’ (I don’t believe there is a hidden ‘fee-fees’- this would be a fee that enables you to pay the fees - naw! Don’t laugh- one mutual fund recently had been fined 450 million for ‘hidden fee’ practices). It is really, at the time of this writing to early to determine if the mutual fund industry has been ‘riding a good horse to death.’
There is an enormous amount of investor dollars supporting some whopper salaries on Wall Street. Just recently (the summer of 2003), Richard Grasso, the once former head (CEO) of the New York stock exchange was forced to resign, after his salary for the past 2 years were made public. His salary - 12 million a year for the past two years, a check for $48 million, which his advisor suggested he return (which he did) and a pay-package of $139.5 million (which he hasn’t returned, as of this writing-mid-2004 and a lawsuit to recover some of the monies is pending). Now, that is just one man’s salary on Wall Street and it is certainly good work if you can get it! Where did all this money for his salary come from? If the money didn’t come from investor’s dollars, why were Pension fund managers so outraged by Grasso’s salary that they threatened to pull billions of Pension fund dollars from the New York exchange? I really don’t know where the money came from to pay his salary. What I do know is the one place where the money for his salary didn’t come from, and that is from the Stockopoly investor. Not one cent!
For more excerpts from the book ‘The Stockopoly Plan’ visit http://www.thestockopolyplan.com
Charles M. O’Melia is an individual investor with almost 40 years of experience and passion for the stock market. Author of the book ‘The Stockopoly Plan’, soon to be released by American Book Publishing.