Blast from the past 1999: lest we forget

December 31, 1999, I recall being hunkered down for the holidays with our 2 week old son, and 16 month old daughter and happened to catch this episode of Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser, featuring esteemed guests Laszlo Birinyi, Liz Ann Sonders and the usual bullish suspects. The NASDAQ gained 100% in just 1999(!) and other stock markets were trading at never before seen (until today of course) extremes in valuations, and still this panel of long-always prophets were cooing about the “magical”, “positive”, “improved growth” and “higher markets” they expected in 2000. Several of them can still he found today on business television spewing the same rosie forecasts, even though those following their recommendations have been financially pummeled now repeatedly over the past 14 years.Here is a direct video link.

Rukeyser credited himself with inventing the job of economic commentary and the medium of investment broadcasting on television. And it paid off for him very well as he rode up the momentum of the longest secular bull in history from 1982 to 1999. By the early 90’s he was earning a salary of $300,000 from his show and another million a year in speaking fees, with Wall Street front men and women scrambling to appear on his show as a sure fire way to attract new victims customers.

Except unbeknownst to the masses, the show was not advice or helpful insights it was infomercial entertainment. The bent was always bullish of stocks and the higher prices soared in the final throes of the tech bubble, the more emboldened guests and viewers became in extreme bullish confidence. (Every bit like today, where bearish market commentators warning of downside risks has now slumped to less than 15% and the lowest level ever recorded, see my Relentless rally chasing bears to near extinction. Ruckeyser died in 2006 at 73, but his legacy of perma-bull television lives on today:

“An eternal bull on the stock market, the more bullish, and less tolerant of dissenting bears he became, the higher the averages climbed. On the program of Nov. 5, 1999, Mr. Rukeyser announced the firing of the veteran panelist Gail Dudak for her 156 consecutive weeks of bearishly errant forecasting. Ms. Dudak heard the news from her neighbors the next morning. The stock market peaked four months later.”

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