Why should we take the stock market seriously?

I generally find the way stocks are priced to be a joke, and press coverage of the stock market to be an even bigger joke. My favorite recent example is today’s New York Times’ Common Sense column, which talks about herd mentality in analysts rating Apple’s stock as a Strong Buy right up until the shares fell off a cliff recently.

Notice the lack of coverage of Apple’s business fundamentals — the discussion is of the performance of the stock compared to the predictions. That’s topped off by extensive quoting of an analyst who did pick against Apple, without any kind of data-founded discussion of his performance overall. He was right about Apple’s recent share value, but we have no idea whether he’s right or wrong about anything else.

Corporate management at public companies is judged based on stock performance, but except in extreme cases, both stock prices and the coverage of them is almost completely divorced from the actual performance of these businesses.

I think a more interesting column would take a more data-centric approach. How does Apple’s share price compare to its financial results? How does that compare to other companies in the same business? How have the various analysts discussed in the article performed over time in terms of stock predictions? The column asks low quality questions and thus yields uninteresting answers.

3 thoughts on “Why should we take the stock market seriously?

  1. I think a more interesting column would take a more data-centric approach

    I am afraid that ship sailed decades ago. The stock market is now just pure gambling.

    Semi-related anecdote: I work for a public company, and when the execs see that the current quarter might be close to, but not quite at, projections, what do they do? Make employees take accrued vacation. That helps the numbers for the quarter but probably actually has negative consequences on the actual business (lost productivity and all that). Infuriating.

  2. Yeah, i was going to say that this is bleed-over from gambling and sports coverage, but really, it’s less willing to discuss the underlying fundamentals than those fields usually are. Because math/journalism is HARD! sigh.

  3. How does Apple’s share price compare to its financial results? How does that compare to other companies in the same business?

    Doesn’t PE ratio cover these?

    Following the short term tends is gambling. Investing in companies who are making money and are investing in their future less so. Eventually the market notices and the stock price goes up.

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