The president’s market report

By Felix Salmon
November 29, 2010

One of the silliest yet most ubiquitous things in financial journalism is the daily market report. The Dow did this, the Nasdaq did that, lookee the dollar, or Gold, or the Hang Seng. Invariably a word like “as” or “after” is used to connect the market move to some news item of the day without quite coming out and saying that there’s a causal relationship.

For individual investors, who should probably check up on the value of their investments no more than twice a year (and even once every two or three years is fine), there’s no reason at all to be blasted with hundreds of these reports a year. They overemphasize noisy intraday moves, and tend to miss out on the signals of big and genuinely important market trends.

All that said, however, if you feel the need to read a daily market report, I know exactly which daily market report it should be. Here’s Brady Dennis, reporting on the activities of Treasury’s markets operation:

A team member also puts together a one-page summary of the day’s activities as part of the daily economic briefing for Obama.

“It’s the hardest document we write, because it’s got to be smart, and it’s got to be in depth, but it can’t be technical,” Pedroni said. “Avoiding getting superficial is the big challenge. Sometimes the weeds have to be there, because the weeds matter.”

Although the environment in some ways resembles a Wall Street trading floor, Pedroni says the staff has an altogether different goal.

“At the end of the day, for us it’s not about profit and loss,” he said. “It’s going to be about good policymaking.”

I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a copy of this daily markets summary, which is sad—I’d love to see what it looks like, and I can’t think of any good reason why it should be classified. I wonder: could Treasury post it online every day? Maybe even send it out by e-mail to subscribers? I’m sure that the product would be extremely popular on Wall Street and beyond, and help build a fair amount of free goodwill for the White House.

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