Too Negative? Guilty As Charged

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 |  Includes: DIA, QQQ, SPY
by: Herb Greenberg

Nothing surprises me anymore. So when I saw that my pal Paul Kedrosky was quoted in the New York Times over the weekend as saying certain bloggers are too negative, I had to laugh.

The bloggers in question were yours truly and Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture blog, who paradoxically is a pal of Paul’s and mine.

Yep, we’re too negative, all right — too negative for not willing to cheerlead people into the abyss. Truth is, the financial and economic world, as we know it, is not coming to an end. There will be plenty of good times to go along with the bad. (Funny: I don’t see Paul or anybody else pointing out that column I wrote in Fortune at the market bottom in 2002, about how I was dipping my toes into the market, or Barry’s positive trading calls in recent years — especially that one on tech — but I digress….)

Don’t think that I’m not sitting here, with my retirement money, wondering how and when to use some of that cash that has been sitting on the sidelines; or whether I whiffed it the other day by not peeling off some of my Leuthhold Grizzly short mutual fund, which has done a tremendous job hedging my IRA from the market’s declines.

But to be taken to task for having rightfully proven that much of America is perched too precariously on too big of a pile of debt — and that this housing thing wasn’t and still isn’t totally “contained” — is simply, well, wrong-headed. (I can still see Larry Kudlow rolling his eyes at me, on set at CNBC, when I would mention, for the umpteenth time, the significance of the looming mortgage mess — and that this mess would extend beyond subprime to cut across all FICO scores; notice that neither Barry nor I have been on his show lately.)

As Barry writes in his own blog, to refute the Times piece and Paul’s ill-timed pontification: Per the IRS, I’m a reporter, which by its very nature means I’m skeptical. I have a special focus on the over-hyped and (if the hype has done its magic) over-valued companies.

I don’t make market calls or offer investment advice. But via the media world, I’ve also morphed, for better or for worse (depending on your perspective), into somewhat of a financial commentator. I figure my opinions, based on more than 30 years of writing about this stuff, is as valid as others who were formally schooled in economics and the stock market. (And who, by the way, seem to get it wrong as much as they get it right.)

What’s viewed as “too negative,” sadly, is really just trying to point out to investors that there’s another side to the story, which is why people might be on the other side of their trades. Tell people the stock market will be going up, even if the logic is flawed, and they think you’re a hero; suggest it might be going down, and they consider you part of some dark alley conspiracy.

If nothing else, investors need to be respectful of risk. If trying to get that message out is what being “too negative” means, then I’m guilty as charged, your honor. And proud of it.