I felt dirty after writing that title. I actually debated between that one and ‘Warren Buffett Doesn’t Pay Attention to Headlines. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Either” but I couldn’t independently confirm (with zero effort) whether he does or not. The point is, clickbait is the worst. At the same time, you’re reading this post, so it clearly works – that is, if your ‘work’ is to get get as many clicks as possible.
I get CNBC notifications on my phone. The headlines they push summarize what’s happening in markets, and they can be a useful tool for informing advisor/client communications. But remember that news agencies’ jobs are to get views. As investors we’re tasked with keeping news in perspective and not letting emotions control our actions.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Here’s a sample of some CNBC push notifications I’ve gotten over the past year.
It’s a lot to take in. The trade war is clearly a mess. 700 points?! First time since 2011? 2004? Those are big moves and historic data points. Can you really blame a news agency for sending me such important information?
Here’s the problem: I lied. Those notifications weren’t from the last year. That’s just the past two weeks. And I didn’t even come close to showing them all. Some pushes conflicted with reports from mere hours earlier, and almost all of them cited ‘huge’ market moves. Granted, there have been some larger than average intraday moves, but sending a notification for every 100 Dow points? That’s not helpful. (Side note: You can bet 100 Dow points catches a lot more eyes than 11 S&P 500 points, even though they’re .)
If you only look at headlines, it sounds like all that breaking news was driving major swings in stocks, but if your time horizon is anything longer than a few days, those swings haven’t mattered and those headlines haven’t added value. The chart below shows the S&P 500 over the last year, and that little red square is the two-week period in question. Despite all that noise, equities haven’t really gone anywhere.
Yes, the trade talks are important. Economic data is important. Fed policy is important. But a banner on your phone and a 20-minute, algo-driven spike doesn’t mean the environment has changed. Remember to keep it things in perspective.
Real news matters. Headlines don’t.