Trump Fatigue

  • Bitcoin falls, but not because of Trump
  • Big Media copes with a “Trump slump”
  • How to end-run Big Media’s failures
  • Fed pivot to lower rates triggers a banking shake-up
  • Once-worthless paper now commands hundreds of dollars

Bitcoin is on the ropes this morning… but this episode of The 5 is not about cryptocurrencies.

No, bitcoin is only our way “in” to some wider issues about the media and how the media work these days.

First, the play-by-play courtesy of colleague Greg Guenthner: “The flagship cryptocurrency suffered a Sunday evening drubbing, spiraling lower by more than 10%. By 8 p.m., bitcoin was testing critical support near $10,000 — a level it has not materially breached since mid-June.”

Here’s the chart, with Greg’s trademark annotations…

Bitcoin Chart

At last check this morning, it’s $10,562. A recovery, but not a resounding one.

“Of course, the financial media are bending over backward to somehow pin the Sunday drop on Trump’s anti-bitcoin comments,” Greg goes on.

“Trouble is, Trump trashed bitcoin on Thursday night. I seriously doubt there’s a three-day news delay in whatever high-tech cave that houses all the crypto nerds.”

As we’ve been saying for years, the market always looks for a “reason” to explain why an asset class moves up or down on any given day. The reality is sometimes there’s no reason at all.

Greg’s radical takeaway this morning: “Maybe Trump isn’t to blame. The red-hot rally could have simply run out of steam.”

Indeed. But an explanation that prosaic doesn’t get clicks.

Thing is, Trump doesn’t generate as many clicks as he used to.

Last month, Big Media executives were fessing up to the website Axios about a “Trump slump.”

Big Media rode a massive Trump wave from the moment he announced his candidacy for the White House in mid-2015. Even if reporters and editors didn’t like him, they recognized he was catnip for attracting eyeballs.

In addition, Hillary Clinton’s campaign encouraged the likes of CNN to give Trump as much coverage as possible on the theory that emphasizing the “craziest” GOP candidate would benefit Hillary. Yeah, how’d that work out?

In turn, Trump played the media like a fiddle, making himself the center of attention. He did it again just this weekend, right?

But Americans are plum exhausted by now. Or as Axios says, “Executives tell Axios that Trump fatigue is very real: Interest in political coverage overall is down.”

And the numbers bear it out: “Digital demand for Trump-related content (number of article views compared to number of articles written) has dropped 29% between the first six months of the Trump presidency and the most recent six months, according to data from traffic analytics company”

Ditto in more traditional media: “In December, media research firm MoffettNathanson found that live news network ratings were down ‘in the -10% to -20% range’ for the better part of 2018. Overall, the firm found that ratings around TV news coverage overall began to decline after the 2016 election.”

Even political junkies are exhausted: According to Pew Research, viewership of the Sunday morning talk shows fell 8% between 2017 and 2018.

And a new election cycle is proving no help: “Democrats don’t appear to be the lifeline media companies are hoping can fill the gap for diminished Trump interest… To date, the Democrats’ biggest media attraction has been Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who isn’t running for president.”

Of course, distrust in the media surely has something to do with it, too.

Which is why this headline on Drudge caught our eye this morning: “National News Coverage of Tropical Storm Is Its Own Disaster.”

The story is from a Louisiana nonprofit called Bayou Brief. Posted last Friday as Barry was about to make landfall, the piece calls out NBC’s Al Roker, MSNBC and The Washington Post. The Post “failed the most spectacularly, publishing a brazenly false story that suggests some sort of mass exodus is currently underway.

“We understand why the nation’s attention is on New Orleans right now, and it’s something we all welcome. But if you’re here to cover a potential hurricane flooding New Orleans and you’re already lying about the weather outside or suggesting there’s some sort of mass exodus underway, you’re not interested in getting to the real story. You’re just here to film some disaster porn and leave as soon as possible.”

Perhaps you can relate: Big news happens near where you live and Big Media stars suddenly parachute in. The story you watch them tell the rest of the country bears little or no resemblance to the “ground truth” you and your neighbors know.

That’s because of a sick phenomenon we’ve alluded to in recent days: Big Media outlets are suffering declining readership and viewership. With advertising revenue falling and newsgathering budgets squeezed, they cut back on their domestic and foreign bureaus. Meanwhile, in hopes of reversing the shrinking-audience trend, they dangle obscene sums of money in front of anchors and pundits and columnists who supposedly have “star power.”

That’s why Norah O’Donnell, who debuts tonight as anchor of the CBS Evening News, will earn a sum two and a half times what Walter Cronkite was earning 40 years ago while reaching a fraction of the audience. (Yes, that’s adjusting for inflation.)

The good news is that in the internet age, you can end-run Big Media if you so desire.

Especially on a mobile device or a set-top box like the Roku, you can easily tune into local TV coverage of an event like Hurricane Barry. No, you might not recognize all the geographical references, but so what? At least the reporters live there and know their way around.

A Roku app like NewsOn gives you access to a couple hundred local stations nationwide, and you can easily drill down by region to whatever you’re looking for. During the 2016 campaign, my wife and I watched Iowa caucus coverage from KCCI in Des Moines and New Hampshire primary coverage from WMUR in Manchester. Much more enlightening and colorful than whatever tripe Fox News and Wolf Blitzer were serving up…

With big international news, you have a wide choice of English-language channels like Germany’s Deutsche Welle, Qatar’s Al-Jazeera, China’s CGTN, Russia’s RT, Japan’s NHK… the list goes on. Yes, almost all of them are state-owned broadcasters with axes to grind. But that’s interesting in its own way. Here at The 5, your editor has two or three of them running all day with the sound down.

[Ed. note: There’s no point getting mad at Big Media — especially when you can get even, and potentially get rich.

That’s what I discovered with a team of researchers these last few months, perfecting a system that identifies lucrative trades in advance — the sort of trades once limited to market and media insiders, trades that could turn a $500 grubstake into as much as $47,200.

Naturally, Big Media is none too pleased with the way we’re making our findings public. Or that I’m basically a turncoat, having been on the payroll of all the Big Four broadcast networks during a 20-year TV news career.

So we need to lower our profile for a while: We’re shutting down access to this project at midnight tonight. Act now and you’ll get access to our latest trade recommendation, due out tomorrow. Time’s-a-wasting: Click here for access.]

To the markets, where stocks are catching their breath after racing to records last week. At last check, the Dow and the S&P 500 were off fractionally, while the Nasdaq was ruler-flat.

Gold is holding its own at $1,411. Crude has dipped back below $60 for the moment.

Overseas the big headline is China’s second-quarter GDP. At 6.2% year over year, it’s the slowest pace since 1992.

The only economic number here at home is the Fed’s Empire State manufacturing survey. After a massive negative surprise last month, the number is back in positive territory. But New York state factory managers remain jittery and they say they’re cutting jobs.

Earnings season is underway with Citigroup. (Wait a minute, it’s been JPMorgan Chase the last couple of years. Can’t keep up.) Citi handily beat analyst expectations for both profit and revenue — thanks to a boatload of revenue it collected from underwriting the IPO of an electronic bond-trading platform called Tradeweb. But traders seem nonplussed and C shares are down about half a percent as we write.

As long as we’re on the subject…

“There’s a major shift going on in the banking sector right now,” says our Zach Scheidt.

In fact, Zach says there’s been nothing like it since the Panic of 2008. Only this time, it’s a bullish development.

“This shift is set to kick off a wave of buyouts as the largest financial firms in the U.S. figure out how to adapt to the new realities.”

That’s because after a three-year cycle of raising interest rates from 2015–2018… the Federal Reserve is about to reverse course at the end of this month.

“This is the first time the Fed has cut interest rates since after the financial crisis. And this major shift in policy will create ripple effects throughout the banking system.

“The banking industry typically performs poorly during periods of low interest rates. That’s because banks can’t charge as much for loans, which causes lending profits to decline.”

But Zach says so-called financial technology, or fintech, firms stand to benefit. They’re not traditional lenders; they’re more like “platform” companies that build systems to facilitate financial transactions and then collect fees on those transactions.

At a time of growing consumer borrowing, those names stand to benefit most. In fact, they might become buyout bait for more traditional banks. Zach will be watching…

At times like now, when we’re late in the boom phase of the boom-bust cycle, collectibles tend to become hot investments. But this is crazytown…

Bloomberg Business Tweet

Yes, the trendy new collectible item is the stock and bond certificates of companies that have gone the way of the dodo. For instance, remember the mortgage lender Countrywide? It was taken over by Bank of America during the financial crisis at $5 a share. But a share certificate will now set you back $199.95.

“What I used to say is the flops are worth more dead than alive,” Virginia dealer Bob Kerstein tells Bloomberg. “Like the Enrons. They were selling for a dollar or two apiece. Once the company died, they were selling for a couple hundred.”

Meanwhile on eBay, someone forked over $800 last week for a Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts certificate from 1999 — complete with the mug of the future president peering over the Atlantic City boardwalk.

Some of the attraction is simply the fondness for a bygone era: With computerized stock trading, few investors take delivery of their stock certificates anymore…

“As soon as you mention The Daily Beast as a source you’ve lost all credibility,” a reader writes after our Saturday edition.

“This is a proven far-left-wing, anti-American publication that spews nothing but lies. How can I trust a single thing you tell me now?”

The 5: Because everyone gets something right now and then. You just have to exercise your powers of discrimination.

Vicky Ward, the writer of the article we cited, has been on the Jeffrey Epstein story since 2002 — years before The Daily Beast was launched. She just happens to have had her most recent articles published there.

And in any event, why’s it so hard to believe Epstein has connections to either a domestic or foreign intelligence service?

You can’t be truly informed if you keep your partisan blinders on. The 5 takes in information from sources as diverse as The New American (John Birch Society) and the World Socialist Web Site. You never know what you might find…

Best regards,

David Gonigam

Dave Gonigam
The 5 Min. Forecast

P.S. Disgusting: ABC News has just added Rahm Emanuel as a “contributor.”

Emanuel did his utmost as mayor of Chicago to stonewall reporters looking into the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old boy. The mayor’s office sat on video for more than a year that clearly contradicted the police’s claim that the kid “lunged” at an officer with a knife. He also illegally withheld emails and texts that dealt with Chicago’s infamous red-light cameras.

But now he has a cushy sinecure with a media outlet that supposedly stands for transparency and accountability from the powerful. Yeah, right.

Big Media, Big Government, Big Finance. It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.

But you can at least have access to the kinds of lucrative market trades once reserved for the elites. That’s the upshot of a months-long investigation we concluded this month at Agora Financial.

But by bringing this information to the public, we’ve made a lot of people furious. So we’re going to shut down access to this trading strategy, at least for a little bit. Keep a lower profile, you know.

Here’s your last chance: This page goes dark tonight at midnight.

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam has been managing editor of The 5 Min. Forecast since September 2010. Before joining the research and writing team at Agora Financial in 2007, he worked for 20 years as an Emmy award-winning television news producer.

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