When front page news is driving share prices, something has gone wrong
For some time now I have been aware that the contents of a newspaper have a greater effect than they used to.
I don’t just mean that in the sense that there has suddenly been an influx of tourism in Essex thanks to TOWIE; I mean that the financial world is now being driven, rather worryingly, by headlines. And that means journalists are having an effect on share prices.
A report landed in my email inbox this week saying clients of one company were buying and selling according to news.
Not company fundamentals. Not stock selection or fund manager. Not by a belief in a sector, performance of a fund or actual quantifiable facts.
No, these clients are reacting to what they are reading in the papers on their commute in to work, and something about that is inherently wrong.
Lloyds TSB was brought into the rate-fixing debacle and as such was reported as the most sold share in the week. Mining and commodities were reported to be doing well and Rio Tinto has made the top 10 of bought stocks.
Even ratings agencies have become household names now and major drivers of markets in themselves.
Moody’s downgrades a country and investors come flooding out of that market. This is wrong in itself; agencies do not give ratings to indicate if one should invest in that company or country, but to indicate its ability to pay back its debt.
Similarly, journalists do not report of mergers and the like to indicate that an investor should buy or sell shares; we are supposed to be impartial, after all.
I, for one, do not really like the thought that my work could be construed in this way. Investors need to have an inkling about what they are doing or be willing to pay someone to manage their portfolios that does.
Having said all of that, if I owned shares in a company and saw it on the front page one morning rumoured to a whisker away from bankruptcy, my first instinct would most likely be sell, sell, sell. But then, maybe that’s why I don’t own any shares.