General Electric's (NYSE: GE ) CNBC is trying to keep its entertainment level high these days. Let's face it -- consumers don't want to watch financial news programming dominated by just data and charts. They want excitement, pizzazz, a Barnum-and-Bailey atmosphere. Jim Cramer delivers such a spectacle in his daily "Mad Money" stockfest, complete with buy/sell/hold lightning rounds and fraternity-bonding screams of "Booyah!" delivered by devotees of the erstwhile hedge-fund manager.
There's another show that is taking the Cramer schtick even further. It's called "Fast Money," and it's hosted by the smart, no-nonsense Dylan Ratigan. It's an energetic roundtable discussion populated by four tough-guy traders who spit at the ramparts of institutional entities. They even come with sobriquets befitting a quartet of professional wrestlers. There's Guy Adami, who is known by the mysterious moniker of "The Negotiator." Eric Bolling plays "The Admiral," a man who knows what a barrel of oil will cost before it's priced. Don't give any warnings to Tim Strazzini -- he's "The Risk Doctor," and it's he who will be handing out the red flags. And last, but certainly not least, is the bald -- think Stone Cold Steve Austin -- Jeff Macke, whose handle is "The Lone Wolf." Are we talking about traders or superheroes a la the Fantastic Four?
I love this show. The hour is wildly entertaining and informative -- you can learn an awful lot about the ways of getting in and out of stocks quickly and efficiently, and about how volatility can be hedged using derivative instruments like calls and puts. The graphics are cool, the pace is quick, and there are even "takedown" moments when one trader disagrees with another.
But keep in mind, while it's entertaining to watch, such a strategy might not work for you and I. If you try and imitate professional wrestlers, you'll probably end up in the hospital -- or worse. A similar fate is waiting for your portfolio if you blindly follow short-term market movements and try to profit from them. While "The Lone Wolf" can move in and out of positions, I know I can't -- I just don't have the type of capital he probably has access to. I'd be killed by commissions, for one thing. Second, I'd be taking on enormous amounts of risk -- I just don't have the ability to enact complicated option structures to reduce the risk of my bets. Third, if I lose, it would hurt me more.
Individual investors should be wary of trading along with the "Fast Money" crowd, but I can see why CNBC promotes the program. At some point, News Corp. (NYSE: NWS ) wants to compete against General Electric via its own financial cable asset. The Fox News Channel has done tremendously well against Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) CNN, so it's no wonder Rupert Murdoch is confident his conglomerate can take on CNBC. Those who watch Fox News Channel's business block on Saturday mornings (I'm a viewer) can attest to the entertainment value of shows like "Bulls & Bears" and "Cashin' In," which feature celebrities like WWE personality John Layfield and M*A*S*H star Wayne Rogers. Ergo, CNBC had no choice but to turn up the volume and appeal to the trader within all of us.
I'll keep watching Cramer and "Fast Money." I might not be trading alongside them, but it is interesting. If you'd like to take advantage of this "wisdom of crowds" mentality with more than four people, you might be just the reader we're looking for to try out the beta version of our CAPS service. The database captures the knowledge and insight of thousands of Fools, and you can express your own opinions on the thousands of stocks already in the system. It's free, full of ideas, and already tracks public stock picks by many analysts -- including Jim Cramer himself. Just click here to try it today.
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