I won't be watching CNBC's Mad Money this week. I guess you can say I'm taking a break from the boo-yah. I did watch the show all last week, though; I wanted to get a better feel for Jim Cramer's antics, in order to provide viewers with a second opinion on some of his saucier market calls.
I'm entertained by Cramer, and I'll admit that occasionally, I'm even enlightened by the industry's biggest celebrity. Rather than close my "Eye on Cramer" series with a recap of Friday's show, I want to recap a few of the things I learned.
1. Cramer is inconsistent
One of my beefs with last Monday's show was his knack for providing contradictory counsel:
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of consistency in his advice. Earlier in the show he rates Visa (NYSE: V ) as a "solid buy" right now and a "screaming buy" if it dips below $50. Later in the show, a caller wants to know about MasterCard (NYSE: MA ) . Cramer retreats. "Both MA and Visa have spiked," he says, reaching for a cash register sound effect. "When things spike in the market, we have to wait for it to come down."
So Visa went from being rated a "solid buy" to being paired with its rival as having spiked just a few commercial breaks later. If you think that's an Exorcist-class head-turner, Friday got even dizzier.
"I like MasterCard more than Visa," Cramer said in response to a piece of viewer mail. "My take on Visa is it's fine. MasterCard's better."
Really, Cramer? Hadn't MasterCard spiked a few shows earlier? To flesh this out appropriately, MasterCard closed at $162.02 before Monday night's show. It finished the week heading into Friday night's show at $161.90. So by "we have to wait for it to come down," Cramer means, "by a negligible 0.1%"? You have to be kidding me.
2. Cramer's callers can be thickheaded
There are only two banking stocks that Cramer likes: investment bankers Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) . Every other bank brought up by Cramer's army of callers was subsequently shot down.
Why are they calling when they know the guillotine will come down? I realize that my first point about Cramer's unpredictable reversals opens the door for him to embrace the sector at a surprising moment, but give Cramer at least some credit.
3. CEOs love being on his show
I wonder just how out of their element Cramer's guest CEOs feel when they're unloading one stuttering "boo-yah" after another? Cramer can certainly pitch his share of softball questions. He had the CEOs of St. Jude Medical (NYSE: STM ) , Knight Capital (Nasdaq: NITE ) , and American Public Education (Nasdaq: APEI ) on last week. With the exception of asking one of them about the high level of insider selling at the company, he stuck to the safe questions.
Needless to say, being invited to Mad Money is an opportunity to sell your story to a larger audience. Obviously, if Cramer were harder on his guests, or actually panned some of the companies, it would be harder to round up willing subjects for execution. That, after all, is saved for the callers who want to know about an obscure bank stock they own.
4. Cramer doesn't get enough credit for what he does
I'll close with a compliment, just in case my coverage of last week's shows came off too negatively. Financial pundits tend to turn on celebrities like Cramer and Suze Orman, but in simplifying investing and personal finance -- and spoonfeeding it to the masses -- they are growing the audience of potential investors, savers, and financially prudent people.
Is that so bad?
Cramer also dedicates generous chunks of his show to enlighten his viewers. Whether he's explaining the basics of technical analysis as he pulls up a chart, or making longer prepared statements that tackle the economy in detail, few will argue that Cramer isn't bright.
In fact, he's a genius -- even if the public perceives him as a showman first.
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