It's Not Brain Surgery
When you buy a car, you kick the tires. When you buy a house, you look in every nook and cranny. You need do to the same thing with your investments. And there's no reason why you can't.
Learning how the market works isn't brain surgery. I'm living proof of that. I'm hardly a mathematics whiz. In fact, a couple years ago, I ran into my high school math teacher and she said, "I can't believe you cover finance." I never took any classes in Wall Street 101, either. I learned it from the ground up. Okay, I studied economics in college, where I learned about the relationship between supply and demand and the difference between macroeconomics and microeconomics. Big deal. You don't learn how markets move in school. You learn that by following the markets and watching trends. In my case I learned it on the job.
So how did I end up with this job?
In my sophomore year at New York University (NYU), I took an introductory course in economics. A lot of people are bored to tears by the topic, but I was lucky because I had a professor who made it exciting. I loved it and I was sailing in it, so I decided to make it my major.
Then my mother said, "Why don't you take some journalism classes? I think you'll be good at them." I loved them too. The excitement of covering a story was similar to the excitement of figuring out an equation in economics, maybe even more so because there was a greater sense of urgency. A few more journalism classes and I ended up switching my major to journalism and making economics my minor.
By now I was a junior in college and I had no idea what I wasgoing to do after graduation. That year I took a class in broadcast journalism. It was one of my favorite classes. Every week the class produced a story and each of the students took a different role. One week I was the anchor, one week the guest booker, one week the producer.
I loved being the producer. You formulate the whole show, from soup to nuts. You have to decide what content to run, which video or graphic to use, and how to make each story come alive with sound and interviews. You have to think, Was the video freshly shot today or will it be misleading because it's file video? Do I want one anchor or co-anchors? Who are my guests? Do I want a kicker'a softer story'at the end of the show? How about music or animation? It's a lot of fun.
As a result of taking this class, I applied for admission to NYU's internship program in broadcasting. At the time all I wanted to do was work for NBC, CBS, or ABC. The networks were hot, I thought, and they were where the action was. I was accepted to the internship program, but to my disappointment I was assigned to work for CNN. I didn't even watch cable and felt that working for ABC, CBS, or NBC held more prestige than working for the very young cable channel. I took the job and started work as an intern at CNN Business News in 1988.I soon realized that CNN was the best possible place for me to have gotten a job. At CNN I was able to do everything. I would get the numbers, that is, fill in stock quotes for the anchors. I would rip scripts'that's what it's called when the scripts are printed out and distributed to the producer, director, and anchors. I would teleprompt, where you manually move the scripts forward on a machine so the anchor can read them on camera. I would follow the wire service stories. I was able to do so much more at CNN than I would have been able to do at the networks, because the networks are unionized and I would not be able to do so many different tasks. So it was so fortunate for me to land at a place where I could gain wider experience and figure out what I was good at.
Eventually CNN offered me a staff position in business news. I worked my way up, first as a writer, then as a producer, and then as an assignment editor, which meant that I came up with story ideas and decided whom I wanted to interview and who would conduct the interview'either reporters or myself.
It was at CNN Business News where I first started noticing the chart trends tracking investor momentum in the stock market, first realized the importance of insider buying and selling'that's when a company's senior management buys or sells some of their holdings in the company's stock, which can be an important indication of their sentiment about the company's future'and first learned the significance of money flows. It was also where I first saw the impact that the price of oil has on the stock market.
The Gulf War began in August 1990, and Operation Desert Storm began the following February. In a nanosecond CNN was the hottest thing on television. You had CNN correspondent Bernard Shaw reporting live from a hotel room in Baghdad while bombs from an American air strike rained down outside his window. The world was watching CNN. It was frightful but...(it was thrilling). I felt proud to be a part of the team.
We in CNN Business News were watching the war's impact on the stock market, and that was thrilling too. We looked for the nuggets of news that would explain how the war would affect investments. Oil prices were surging because people were afraid that oil shipments from the Middle East would dry up. It was one of the biggest business stories and it was news. Oil is one of the biggest costs, if not the biggest cost, for corporate America. The airline, railroad, and automobile industries are the most obvious businesses fueled by oil; electricity is created from burning oil and gas. The price of oil was also affecting consumer spending. If you're paying more to gas up your car or heat your house, your disposable income drops. You don't have the money for an extra coat, big vacation, or new car. It was the first time in my career that the price of oil became so important to our everyday lives, the economy, and the stock market. It certainly wouldn't be the last.