Did you think the negative economic reporting would stop once George W. Bush was out of office and Barack Obama was in? It hasn’t.
Although you could argue that the press has done its best to make Obama look good despite economic troubles, as Congress debates a jobs bill and other legislation meant to improve the economy before elections in November, could the media be painting a darler economic picture than is accurate?
Even though consumer confidence has dropped, CNBC’s Jim Cramer insisted Feb. 23 the press is getting it completely wrong. He argues the media is “accentuating the negatives” and ignoring the positives.
“You know something – every time I pick up the paper I'm reminded of the hazards of reading it,” Cramer said during “Mad Money – High Noon.” “In the last week I've seen countless articles about foreclosures, airline weakness, housing woes, a lack of infrastructure jobs and commercial mortgage worries. Now you can argue that some are simply taking cues to the numbers that come out, but I think they are accentuating the negatives.”
The “Mad Money” host rattled off several industrial stocks that have had significant gains over the past two months, noting this is an often ignored indicator by the business media.
“Why do I say that? Because when you look at what's been written and extrapolate you would think the aerospace stocks, the steels, the machinery names, the homebuilders, the banks that they should all have been crushed,” Cramer said. “But instead they've been going on pretty strong since the year began. Have you looked at Boeing (NYSE:BA)? How about Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT)? Terex (NYSE:TEX), U.S. Steel (NYSE:X), Nucor (NYSE:NUE), AK Steel (NYSE:AKS) not to mention KB Home (NYSE:KBH), Pulte (NYSE:PHM) and Lennar (NYSE:LEN) – the homebuilders.”
There is also some skepticism about the commercial real estate sector improving, even from the biggest real estate cheerleader, like the National Association of Realtors. But Cramer pointed to one good sign – a bidding war between two major companies for a controlling stake in the U.S. mall market – Simon Properties and Brookfield Asset Management.
“We have been told endlessly that commercial real estate would be the next catastrophe,” Cramer said. “Yet now Brookfield (NYSE:BAM) is in a bidding war with Simon Properties (NYSE:SPG) for General Growth (OTC:GGWPQ)? Isn’t that the quintessential commercial real estate play?”
So based on signs Cramer claimed were underreported, there’s at least some reasons to be optimistic.
“The articles in the press are telling one story, but the tape tells us a very different one,” Cramer said. “Maybe it's time to ask where the heck are the positive articles in the mainstream press? Maybe we should be looking for a little green like Bertha [Coombs] says. I mean, it's been a pretty great run here. How could we be so deluged with negatives and also never see anything optimistic? I find these articles infuriating. I want to know how many articles can be written negatively and how few are written positively. “
Cramer did find a silver lining to the media’s failure: that negativity is causing stock prices to remain undervalued and that presents buying opportunities.
“There was a time last year, right about now, when consumer confidence really did plunge in February where the ratio made sense,” Cramer said. “But you have to ask yourself, are the stocks endlessly wrong or is the bias endlessly wrong? Ultimately, I think the bias is what's off and if that's the case, then maybe the bias should change. Until it does, you should always expect pessimistic articles or stories that twist the facts in order to be negative – the so-called ‘to be sure’ comment, that's always in the third paragraph. Here's the saving grace. The articles knock prices down to levels we simply don't deserve when we go to buy them.”