Parlor games make me sick to my stomach. I need to chug a half a bottle of Pepto when I hear them -- and I hear them way too often.
What's a parlor game besides a terrible distraction to making money?
I'll give you the biggest and the worst: What's the Fed going to do next? This is a ritualistic parlor game that begins literally the moment after the Fed makes its latest move.
Take yesterday. It didn't take more than a few moments after the Fed announced a quarter-point cut before we started to hear the usual banter about what will the Fed do next, when will it cut next, will it cut at all, is it pausing, is it mid-cycle, is it down, does it want to be done, who wants it to be done, which officials don't want it to be done, etc.
When I read and heard it played out, I wanted to say to these people, "Are you really that desperately in need of a story that you can't even take time to savor the action? Do you do this because you have nothing else to do? What triggers this madness?"
A long time ago, I used to be a sports writer. It has schooled me into what I often think is the best writing and the best discourse: the post-game. There are so many superior writers and commentators in sports of all stripes and sizes and cities that the quality blows me away. One thing they make sure to do, though, no matter what, is to talk about the game at hand, before and after -- not the next game. You can bet that if the 9ers trounce the Cardinals tonight, we are going to hear how much havoc Nick Bosa is going to create against the hapless Arizonians. We are going to hear pontification about what the win means for the playoff hopes of the Rams. We will learn whether the Cardinals are simply Hilltoppers -- my name for a pro team that may have trouble toppling the Summit Hilltoppers, the high school my kids went to.
But the one thing you will not hear is about the upcoming games for either one. Why? Because it's just too soon and therefore, too irrelevant. In baseball, we are not today going to hear about a Nationals versus Astros rematch, either.
Yet, these are like the parlor game we are subjected to about the Fed's next move. It's worse in business than sports: Unlike football or baseball, you actually may make an investment decision off this nonsense. You literally have to tune it out so as not to be confused by the meanderings.
The China talks are another parlor game. I know that Tim Cook felt more optimistic about some sort of peaceful coexistence/deal between the U.S. and China during my talk with him before the company released earnings.
Me? I know it's all just a game. Without a concrete sign of contrition by the Chinese, at least contrition in the eyes of the president, there's nothing going on of substance. We need to see either executions of fentanyl drug dealers or a gigantic soybean buy or even a -- useless for them, meaningful for us -- bulk 747 purchase.
Now there's commentary I disdain here, the whole notion that the Chinese are playing the long game and we aren't. That's because the only person tougher on China than Trump is Elizabeth Warren. She hates what the Chinese have done to our workers AND our skies. If I were a member of the PLA, the real power in China, I would be saying that it's better to take the bad bird in the hand than the worse two birds --Sanders and Warren -- in the bush. Remember, the whole reason why we used to fade in this country is because our corporations favored sacrificing our workers for privates in the name of democratizing globalization. We now realize that was a fraud and I have never seen business more hated by both parties.
So when I read a headline that says it's unlikely that there will be a big deal between the two countries, I say, "don't sell stocks on that, it could be written any day of the week, just ginned up for the sake of saying or writing something, like the Fed gasbagging."
My goal is to get you to avoid or ignore the parlor games that commentators play and to keep your eye on the prize: owning the stocks of good companies and riding them through the idle talk. I know it's hard to do. They all sound so relevant. But after 40 years of doing this, I know this truth to be self-evident: they aren't.