The stock market has clearly been a bit ... er, volatile lately. All the ups and downs have many people confused: Should I sell out of stocks now? Should I be buying now?
Money magazine addressed this confusion recently by asking some financial luminaries what investors should do now. Author William Bernstein was very sensible, noting, "Get out of the market? Of course not, silly. If you think about it logically, you are rewarded for owning stocks precisely because they are risky." True enough. Then he added something provocative: He said, "One more thing: Stop watching CNBC. It will make you stupid and poor. If you must watch, turn off the sound."
Wow. I can't entirely disagree, though. Because think of it -- did you watch CNBC last week? Last month? Can you remember what you saw? Did it make any difference to your investing? I just turned it on, as I prepared this piece. The tickers scrolling across the bottom aren't too enlightening: PMC-Sierra (Nasdaq: PMCS ) up $0.12, Natus Medical (Nasdaq: BABY ) down $0.82, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) up $0.24, Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) up $0.12, Lowe's (NYSE: LOW ) up $0.38. So what? In another minute or two, something that's up $0.12 will be down $0.07 or up $0.35.
Our investing newsletters have actually recommended a few of those companies, but you won't frequently find deep research and insights into such firms on TV. (You can get that deep research by test-driving one of our newsletters for free -- our Motley Fool Hidden Gems team recommended Natus Medical some seven months and 36% ago.)
It's useful to have a channel for business news, and it can be helpful to see CEOs discussing their companies, giving you a fleeting impression of their character and candor. Still, let's face it -- the channel features a lot of filler. Spending time reviewing which stocks are up and which ones are down isn't the best use of our time. It's better to build our own personal watch lists of stocks we're interested in, and then check it now and then to see if anything has fallen to attractive levels.
Hearing "expert" after "expert" opine about the future of the market and which stocks or sectors he or she expects to rise or fall isn't too useful, either ... because many of them will turn out to have been wrong. Seek out experts you trust who have records you admire. Then make up your own mind.