The Wall Street Hillbillies

05/21/2012 10:45 am EST


Igor Greenwald

Chief Investment Strategist, MLP Profits

Tales of corporate bumbling and greed have come to define this market. Call it the Dimon discount, writes senior editor Igor Greenwald.

The stock market is a family of sorts, in the sense that the performance of its parts reflects on the whole, tying together disparate corporate fortunes.

Some do better than others, but outsiders often have trouble sorting out the good apples in the bunch. And their growing preference for cheap ETF baskets means the contents often rise or fall together.

Lately, falling has been the only ride on offer, of course. As fictional families go, the stock market these days is more Clampetts than Ewings.

Old man J.D. has struck pay dirt, only to go gambling with the proceeds and come home with nothing but a bottle of hooch and some poison hedges. Neighbor Aubrey has been drilling like crazy with borrowed money, and is now up against it.

One of the kids made it big with that whole Facebook (FB) thing, only to have fast-talking cousin Nasdaq (NDAQ) screw up the coming-out party with bad software. Which left the bankers, J.D. among them, to maintain appearances with money already earmarked for more hooch-making.

It’s a pretty sorry family alright, the sort more likely to be featured on Cops than on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. No wonder mom and pop have found a myriad good reasons to park their money elsewhere, so that when institutional support buckled over the last couple of weeks, stocks ended up getting tarred and feathered.

Is there hope for this zany clan? If so, it can only reside with the equally kooky family of nations. Which spent the weekend begging its rich German aunt to pay the light bill before power gets disconnected.

Chancellor Angela Merkel nevertheless left Camp David with the same misunderstanding she brought there, namely that austerity and growth are two sides of the same coin rather than incompatible magnetic fields.

And though Uncle Wen threw the market dogs a bone overnight by stressing growth, he is not generally known as a merrymaker. Which leaves the faithful waiting on St. Bernanke to dispense another miracle cure, lest the dark forces of entropy prevail.

The good news is that the script could hardly get worse, and ratings have nowhere to go but up. The cast is in the midst of a shakeup, albeit not as radical as some viewers may like.

They’ve just jeered Handsome Prince Mark and his overpriced social networking darling off the stage, and are in a mood for a mud-wrestling bout, or perhaps an execution or two. It’s an ugly scene and an ugly crowd. But at least the price of admission is right.

For the patient, this farce could yet end up golden. Just don’t expect an aesthetic triumph. That’s a different show entirely.

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