Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

Nobody's paying any attention to President Bush when he speaks about the market, so why would anyone listen to me?

They probably won't, but I'll give it a try anyway…

Two phrases uttered by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan bookend the decade of the Dow: "irrational exuberance", which he used to describe the year l996... and "infectious greed", which he just said the other day.

It wasn't quite a decade, but if you roll back to when "irrational exuberance" actually began — not just when it was noticed — it qualifies as a decade of money growing on trees.

All you had to do to fill your bushel basket was shake the tree... and who has the greatest access to tree shaking? CEOs, that's who. The guys and gals who run these corporations and report to the board of directors — who are themselves a well-paid bunch, and whose main job is to snooze while company officers do whatever they want.

So we had 10 years of people figuring, "Hey. All I've got to do is stand here long enough, and it's going to rain money on me". That was the "irrational exuberance" part.

The "infectious greed" part comes into play when you hire a plane to go seed the clouds so it rains harder.

The economy is chugging along nicely, thanks to employment and low interest rates. If either of those things start to crack, there's cause for worry.

But this market thing is now a fear-driven stampede for the doors, and all it really does is drive everything down more and more. It will keep going down until fatigue sets in, and everyone's attention is diverted by some other, bigger problem.

Look at it this way... the market was probably overpriced by both greed and exuberance. It's just coming down to where it should have been. If you make your money on stock options... oops. You lose.

If you make your money working for a living, and putting some in the market for the day you retire 20 years for now... forget it, go back to work, and let the down cycle play itself out.

There's nothing wrong with the market. A little jail time for the infectiously greedy wouldn't cure.

Next time, watch out for the "irrational exuberance". It'll get you, same as the greed.

That's My Word.

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