Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Questionable Financial Coverage on CNBC

I've never really liked CNBC's equity options programs. The original, Fast Money, once hosted by now-departed Dylan Ratigan, airs after the market's close, with a 12:30PM spinoff, as well. It's not because of Melissa Lee, Ratigan's replacement, for whom I actually have great respect as a reporter and anchor. Nor several of the program's continuing contributors, including John Najarian.

It's just the fact that the network airs two programs on the topic of short-term options trading. As I've written elsewhere in a few prior posts, I don't believe many, if any, retail investors have any business dabbling in equity options. Beyond relatively safe strategies, such as covered calls, it is mostly likely an expensive waste of time and money for most retail investors. Something like 90% or more of all equity options expire without gains.

To me, the Fast Money programs aim for a rather odd segment. Few retail investors are probably interested or sufficiently confident to try to follow any of the advice emanating from the program's personalities. Institutional investors would be unlikely to need such advice- they either already have their own professional opinions as options pros, or don't go near the instruments.

Now, an even more troubling asset class is looming on CNBC's horizon- foreign exchange.

Within the past week, I was asked to complete a CNBC survey on the topic. The network's surveys are typically pretty obvious in their focus. This one probed my unaided recall of advertising by various FX trading vendors, then segued into how I felt about the companies and the concept of CNBC airing an FX trading program.

You can see what's coming here. One or more retail FX platform vendors approach CNBC about sponsoring a program focusing on their instruments. With all the cross-currency plays available, plus various forces- interest rates, trade, intervention, etc.- driving FX valuations and expectations, there would be a lot to discuss.

That's also the downside- for retail would-be investors. FX is a dicey area for professionals. Never mind allowing retail investors loose in this toxic candy store.

I continue to feel that CNBC knowingly entices retail investors to believe they can and should engage in investing activities for which they are unsuited. Most retail investors should stick to managed equity and fixed income funds. Few really have the time, knowledge and skill to add unique value by selecting individual equities or bonds, let alone derivatives thereon. For CNBC to devote so much air time- as much as 2 1/2 hours now, including two Fast Money programs and Cramer's Mad Money- is, in my opinion, irresponsible. To add FX to this brew is even worse.

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