Amid the turmoil> in Europe and confusion on Capitol Hill this week, all investors should find time to remember Louis Rukeyser, the celebrated financial journalist who died four years ago this week.
Describing Rukeyser s influence on younger investors is a little like trying to convey the cultural significance of Mickey Rooney or Jimmy Durante. The stock market is so widely watched now that it s hard to remember when even average investors didn t know how to use a stop-loss order or quote the pre-market futures.
But think back to the 1970s and 1980s, a period of grainy video and high inflation, before Motley Fool, SmartMoney, Fox Business or StockTwits -- back when commissions still ran a few hundred dollars for a simple market order and products like bond ETFs or online foreign exchange trading would have been unthinkable. Way back then, before any of that existed, like a dependable friend each Friday night, there was "Wall $treet Week."Sent to me by Rukeyser in response to a high school fan letter>
The show was described as a Mister Rukeyser's Neighborhood for grown-ups. Rukeyser excelled at putting complex economic analysis into an accessible, meaningful, and most importantly, actionable format. The average American is intensely interested in money, if you can explain it to him clearly and without putting him to sleep, he recalled in a subsequent interview. This was a visionary attitude in 1970, five years before stock brokerage commissions were deregulated and Wall Street was still considered a private club.
His weekly commentary, written each Friday after the market close, would come to epitomize the folksy and familiar presentation that reassured investors even as it educated them. Always ready to acknowledge economic realities, he never lost his enduring optimism about American capitalism and equities over the long term.
Comforting the nation after the 1987 crash, he quipped how Everybody who really loved you a week ago still loves you tonight, and that s a heck of a lot more important than the numbers on a brokerage statement. The market recovered within two years.
The show was unlike anything in modern financial media. Panelists discussed their outlook and stock picks without interruption; no countdown clocks, sound effects or Paris Hilton footage competing for viewers attention. Each January, Rukeyser would don a tuxedo and ask his panelists to make predictions for the upcoming year, while playfully reviewing their prior prognostications.
back then, likely in the pages of Value Line rather than on the internet).
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"Wall $treet Week" was also among the few business programs to legitimize technical analysis. In the show s early years, before adopting his Elves index of market pundits, Rukeyser would feature a technically-based trend indicator that helped popularize the study of charts.
As a young student, I sent Rukeyser a handwritten fan letter, and he answered my note with a signed and autographed picture, which I keep on my office wall to this day. He also inspired generations of future financial broadcasters including Bloomberg s Margaret Brennan and CNBC (later Fox s) Terry Keenan, who both began their careers with Uncle Lou.
After defining a genre and hosting for 32 years, he was pushed out for younger faces in 2002. The show wouldn t last three years without him.
Rukeyser s approach reads like a test pattern in today s endless stream of flashy graphics, low-cut tops and manufactured outrage. But his wry and reasoned approach, along with his sincere belief in the power of individual investors to make prudent decisions with a long-term perspective, is still sorely missed to this day.
At the Close
Cattle prices nipped a 19-month high Wednesday, benefiting shares of iPath Livestock ETN, the exchange-traded note we wrote about a few months back. Cattle prices have risen 18% this year, making livestock the best commodity subsector tracked by Dow Jones-UBS.
iPath DJ-UBS Livestock ETN (COW) 1 year>
At the time of writing, Hoenig s fund held positions in many of the securities mentioned.>