In the last several minutes of the three o’clock hour today, CNBC was reporting on the fall of the Dow-Jones Industrial average, the S&P 500, and US stocks in general. Several commentators were discussing the fact that it was down quite a bit, but according to Jim Cramer, with the Dow at a negative 400 points or so the market wasn’t down enough to be “interesting” yet.
As they talked, only a matter of minutes, they watched the Dow fall another 500 points, at which level Cramer decided things were interesting after all. By a strange coincidence, Erin Burnett had asked that the chart for Procter and Gamble be displayed on the screen, as an example of a large-company stock. The group watched as P&G cratered, from $60 to apparently $41. We are now told that it was a data entry mistake on a P&G sale order that caused the whole kerfuffle.
If you weren’t watching CNBC as it happened (or if it wasn’t your order that brought the incident about), it won’t have much impact on you. But to give due credit, they recognized pretty quickly that there must be some kind of systemic error at the base of the problem, not a “true” market sell-off.
But that’s not what I’m interested in. As the situation rewound itself very quickly, several CNBC talkers took the opportunity to “recommend” that tomorrow would be a good time to buy a stock that is sometimes called a market proxy. The stock, General Electric, was the parent company of CNBC the last time I checked. The unqualified recommendations were a breach of journalistic transparency, if not a breach of ethics or the law.