If Sports Reporters Wrote the Daily Business News
Buried underneath the bigger headlines in the final days of the first quarter of 2023 was a nugget of good news about the economy.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nasdaq index and the S&P 500 all ended the quarter with a surge, adding confirmation to signs of an uptrend in the equities markets.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq is up nearly 18 percent for the year and closed out its best quarter since 2020. Likewise, the S&P 500 is up more than 7% so far in 2023 and the Dow moved back into positive territory for the year.
But this kind of mundane accounting barely moves the needle of public interest. For many people, the quick nightly recap of the closing values on Wall Street are as deep as it gets for business news. Some of that is lack of interest in financial matters beyond the cost of a loaf of bread and a gallon of gas. But a lot of it comes from how business news is delivered to the wider public.
For those passionate about the day’s business, there are more than enough outlets to feed their need for information – and no lack of “experts” to explain it to them.
But the majority of people have neither the time nor the inclination to dive down an economic rabbit hole and rely on less precise information about the true nature of the economy. It’s not from a lack of interest but the way economic and business news is reported.
Dry, ivory-tower hot takes from economists, analysts and other “experts” are fine for the fully engaged, but the average consumer – raised on televised sports and instant replay – wants a quicker, more-to-the-point explanation of what’s going on delivered in a form they understand.
To accomplish that, economic reporters should take a cue from their colleagues in the press box and learn how to break down the action. It might sound something like this:
The Nasdaq composite index shot out of the gate in January, breaking off a series of long runs and gaining lots of ground. After hitting some rough terrain at the midpoint of the quarter, the index, known for its high-tech offensive punch and openness to innovation, regrouped from a loss of yardage to finish the quarter with a sustained drive down the field.
The Dow’s big industrials kicked off the 2023 season with high hopes to improve on its nearly 9% falloff in 2022. Hampered by supply-chain snafus and jittery consumers, the index faced constant pressure on the strong side from inflation throughout last season.
Buoyed by renewed confidence and workforce reductions to streamline the offense, the DJIA posted strong numbers to start the year and was able to regroup from some early losses until headwinds stopped it in its tracks mid-way through the quarter. As the quarter came to a close, however, the index put together a sustained offensive spurt to get back to even.
Much like the Dow, the S&P drove down the field with ease at the opener but was knocked back on its heels through the middle of the quarter, only to regain its footing and began to push the defense back for positive gains.
It may not be the most elegant way to explain market forces and equities values, but at least it can make economics a little more user-friendly and a lot less dismal. And if nothing else, at least it’s easier to listen to.