Wall Street Week

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Wall Street Week
Wallstreetweek.svg
'A reproduction of the program's original 1970s-era MICR font logo (the stacked version aired without the dollar sign "$")'
Also known as Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser (1972)
Wall Street Week with Fortune (2005)
Presented by Louis Rukeyser (1972–2002)
Karen Gibbs (2005)
Narrated by Alec Webb
Theme music composer Donald Swartz
Opening theme "TWX in 12 Bars"
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Production
Location(s) Owings Mills, Maryland
Production company(s) Maryland Public Television
Broadcast
Original channel PBS
Original run November 20, 1970 (1970-11-20) – June 24, 2005 (2005-06-24)

Wall Street Week (WSW) (styled Wall $treet Week [W$W]) was an investment news and information TV program that was broadcast weekly each Friday on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States. It had a host (or hosts) and guest experts participating in discussions on the stock market and focused on forecasts. The show debuted on the entire PBS network on January 7, 1972.

The program, created by Anne Truax Darlington and produced by Maryland Public Television (MPT), aired from 1970 to 2005 and was officially titled Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser during the 32 years he hosted. Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser was announced by Alec Webb.

In June 2002, the show was modified, dropping Rukeyser and changing the name to Wall Street Week with Fortune. Rukeyser went on to host Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street on CNBC (cancelled on December 31, 2004 at Rukeyser's request due to continuing ill health), which was also distributed to PBS stations. Wall Street Week with Fortune, which was hosted by Geoff Colvin and former Fox News business correspondent Karen Gibbs, ended its PBS run on June 24, 2005.[1]

Show format[edit]

Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser[edit]

  • Commentary: Rukeyser would begin the program with a short commentary on the week's financial news, followed by a summation of market statistics.
  • Panel Discussion: A panel of financial analysts (usually three in number) offered their opinions on the market, and gave specific stock recommendations. Panelists over the years, who numbered close to 30 by the turn of the 20th century, included financial names like Frank Cappiello, Jim Price, Gail Dudack, Mary Farrell, Michael Holland, Carter Randall, Julius Westheimer and Martin Zweig.
  • Viewer Mail: The panelists would answer questions submitted by viewers. This segment always ended with Rukeyser delivering a pun-laden solicitation for letters.
  • Interview Prelude: Occasionally, before the final interview, Rukeyser would provide his insight on some aspects of business, such as a certain stock sector (e.g. food, medical, energy), the right choice for mutual funds, and even the best deals on various products. The most commonly repeated commentaries were "Professor Lou's Classroom" (during the back-to-school season), "Uncle Lou Goes Christmas Shopping" (held during in December, usually on the Friday before Christmas), and "Sentiment-al Journey" (New Year's Eve).
  • Interview: In the final segment, Rukeyser and the panelist interviewed a guest expert.

Over the years, the list of guests included such notables as Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, Ross Perot, John Kenneth Galbraith, Malcolm Forbes, and Paul Samuelson.

"Ms. Smythe"[edit]

After being introduced, guests for the interview segment were escorted from backstage by a woman in formal dress dubbed by production staff and listed in the credits as "Ms. Smythe" ("Miss Smythe" until the late 1980s), always followed by her real name. Various women over the years performed this task, the most famous being Natalie Seltz.

"TWX in 12 Bars"[edit]

During Rukeyser's tenure, the program featured a distinctive theme composed by Donald Swartz entitled "TWX in 12 Bars," which featured percussion supplied by a teletype machine. The opening bells of the song replicated the sound of the Westminster chimes.

New Year's Show[edit]

On the last Friday of the year, the host and panelists would appear in black tie, make market predictions and stock recommendations for the upcoming year, and review how well their predictions of one year ago fared.

Alternative format[edit]

On October 23, 1987, the first program following Black Monday, the show dropped its regular format for a special program where Rukeyser interviewed three experts on the impact of the stock market crash.

Afterwards, the show would employ this alternative format whenever events warranted, usually once every few months.

Stand-ins for Rukeyser[edit]

Whenever Rukeyser was on vacation or otherwise absent, one of the show's regular panelists would fill in. For many years this function was usually performed by Carter Randall, though in later years it was usually Frank Cappiello or (less often) Martin Zweig after Randall died in 1999. Both Randall and Cappiello were investment bankers from Baltimore, convenient to where WSW was produced in Owings Mills, Maryland.

"An Investment Primer" specials[edit]

During the 1984 and 1985 pledge-drive seasons, Rukeyser hosted two "Investment Primer" specials, introducing viewers to the stock market and how it worked. The first show, which aired in 1984, dealt with stocks, bonds, and gold; whereas the second show in 1985 dealt with mutual funds, options and commodities. Some of the guests included Stan Weinstein (editor of The Professional Tape Reader), Peter Lynch (manager of the Magellan funds at Fidelity Investments), and Dick Fabian (editor for "The Telephone Switch Newsletter")

Wall Street Week with Fortune[edit]

With the new hosts came a change in format:

  • Opening report: Geoff Colvin and Karen Gibbs presented separate news reports on major stories impacting the market.
  • Viewer Mail: The hosts answered questions from viewers.
  • Interviews: The hosts conducted separate guest interviews; Gibbs handled interviews related to specific investing issues, while Colvin handled interviews relating to politics and the overall economy.
  • Closing Commentary: A brief commentary by Colvin.

The new show's theme music was an updated, more orchestral version of "TWX in 12 Bars".

Without Louis Rukeyser as host, this new version suffered from dismal ratings, neither capturing a new more youthful market as PBS had intended, nor retaining the original viewers. It was soon cancelled.

Wall Street Week Index[edit]

During its run, the show used two different indexes to predict future market trends:

From 1970 to 1989, the show used the Wall Street Week Index (later known as the WSW Technical Market Index), a technical analysis developed by Robert Nurock. The analysis consisted of ten separate technical indicators, each of which was assigned a value of either +1 (indicating a bullish trend), -1 (for a bearish trend, or 0 (neutral)). A net balance of +5 (or higher) was interpreted as a buy signal, while a reading of -5 (or lower) was a sell signal. While the index rarely gave outright buy or sell signals, over time it was found to give an accurate forecast of the stock market.[citation needed] Rukeyser irreverently named the index "The Elves" (a reference to the Gnomes of Zürich), and dubbed Nurock the "Chief Elf." This index was replaced with the Elves Index after Nurock resigned from the show in October 1989 and took the original Index with him.

Used From 1989 to the end of the Rukeyser era, the Elves Index was also a reading of ten indicators scored in the same manner as the Wall Street Week Index. Instead of reflecting technical factors, the indicators now represented the personal sentiment of ten market analysts about the direction of the market over the next three months. The Elves Index had more volatility and gave more buy signals than the Wall Street Week Index, but was not as highly regarded. In 1998, one magazine even suggested the Elves Index was more useful as a contrarian tool, citing three examples where buy signals were followed by periods of market drift or contraction.[citation needed] Later, Rukeyser added an Elves Index for the NASDAQ. This index had one of the worst predictive records of any public index.[citation needed]

The indexes were "retired" by Rukeyser after the September 11, 2001 attacks. At that point, the indexes were signalling a very strong sell signal. However, as was usually the case, it was an excellent time to do the opposite as the market rallied significantly after the initial selloff.

Show popularity[edit]

The premiere of WSW on November 20, 1970 was carried on eleven stations of the Eastern Educational Television Network. The show rapidly grew in coverage and viewers until it became one of the most popular programs on the newly created PBS member stations.[citation needed] At its peak, the program aired on over 300 stations, and claimed a viewership of 4,100,000 households, which meant more people watched WSW every week than read the Wall Street Journal.[citation needed] The program became a major source of profit for both MPT and PBS through underwriting support and viewer pledges (it is estimated PBS earned $5,000,000 profit annually from the show).[citation needed]

The Rukeyser Effect[edit]

Over the years, stock traders and analysts noted that a company touted on WSW on Friday would experience a run-up in its stock price the following Monday. This phenomenon, dubbed "The Rukeyser Effect", was stated to be a further demonstration of the program's influence. However, in 1987, Prof. Robert Pari of Bentley College published an academic article in the Journal of Portfolio Management detailing the results of a study that found that stocks recommended by Rukeyser's guests on Wall Street Week not only tended to rise in price and trading volume in the days preceding the Friday evening broadcast, peaking on the Monday afterward, but thereafter those stocks tended to drop in price and under-perform the market for up to a year following the recommendation.[2] Rukeyser strongly disputed this claim, but ten years later Professors Jess Beltz and Robert Jennings published another academic article in the Review of Financial Economics reporting results consistent with Pari's original findings, and that there was "little correlation between the 6-month performance of a recommendation and the abnormal volume at the date the recommendation is made." They observed that there were differences in return performance between the recommendations of different individuals, but the market could not discern the more insightful recommendations from the less insightful.[3] Another commentator observed "It is mathematically impossible for the thirty million viewers of this show to beat the market, since they are the market."[4]

Rukeyser as host[edit]

Louis Rukeyser conducted the proceedings with a wry sense of humor (including the use of puns) and a reassuring manner. In 1980 Rukeyser explained his hosting philosophy to The New York Times as, "I am talking to one person, whom I regard as intelligent, with a good sense of humor, but not all that technically knowledgeable." He instructed panelists and guests not to use technical jargon and economic theories on the show, but rather talk about making money, because, "Economics puts people to sleep. Money wakes them up."

Rukeyser's dismissal[edit]

From its ratings peak in the early 1980s, WSW suffered a long steady decline in viewers due to competition from shows such as the Nightly Business Report, cable programs like Moneyline, and cable networks such as CNBC.[citation needed] By 2001 viewership was down to 1,500,000 households and demographics showed that the average WSW viewer was 65 years old (about the same age as Rukeyser). MPT began to discuss the possibility of updating the format in an effort to reverse these trends. On March 21, 2002, MPT announced that beginning in June the program would be renamed Wall Street Week with Fortune, would be a collaboration between MPT and Fortune magazine, and would feature two new cohosts. Rukeyser was invited to remain with the program in a reduced role as a senior correspondent, but he turned down the offer.

The following evening, Rukeyser opened the telecast by announcing "A funny thing happened to me on the way to the studio this week—I got ambushed." He criticized MPT's decision to change the show format, announced that he was developing a new business program for PBS, and concluded his commentary by asking viewers to write to their local PBS station and request it carry his new show. After the broadcast MPT dismissed Rukeyser and executive producer Rich Dubroff. Over the next three months Marshall Loeb and Ray Brady served as guest hosts while the new format was put in place.

Despite "ambushing" Rukeyser, the show's trend of losing viewers continued as the show floundered on without Rukeyser's trusted presence and was terminated in early 2005. Rukeyser died 11 months after the show ended.

Wall Street Week returns as an online publication[edit]

Five years after going off the air, licensing rights to use the Wall Street Week name were acquired by Jeff Salkin, anchor of MPT's State Circle program. Rather than attempt to replace Rukeyser with a new host, they have taken what they describe as an "ensemble approach". The ensemble consists of Jeff Salkin himself in addition to former Nasdaq President Alfred Berkeley and former Nasdaq Vice President Maribel Aber acting as moderators and interviewers.

Since the original broadcast did not rely on commercial advertising revenue, it was believed to be more objective and long term oriented. In an effort to be true to these original broadcast ideals the new online version is subscription based, not ad supported.

Underwriters[edit]

Most of the underwriters throughout the show's tenure included: Martin Marietta, Lockheed (soon to merge long after stopping their share of funding), Prudential Securities (and its precursor, Prudential-Bache Securities), Primerica Financial Services, Hilton Hotels Corporation (and its subsidiary, Conrad International Hotels), Sperry Corporation, CSX, Enron Corporation, Enron Foundation, Hanson Trust, Unisys, Travelers Insurance, Ameritech (before the big switch to SBC, which merged AT&T Inc.), MFS Investment Management, Oppenheimer Funds, A. G. Edwards, The Kaufmann Fund, Deloitte and Touche, Occidental Petroleum, The Ford Foundation, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and all local PBS affiliates and their viewers/contributors.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ives, Nat; Elliott, Stuart (2005-03-24). "'Wall St. Week,' a PBS Staple, Will Go Off the Air in June". The New York Times. p. 8. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  2. ^ Pari, R. (1987). Wall Street Week recommendations: yes or no? Journal of Portfolio Management, 14, 74-76.
  3. ^ Beltz, J., & Jennings, R. (1997). "Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser" recommendations: trading activity and performance. Review of Financial Economics, 6, 15-27.
  4. ^ [William J. Bernstein

External links[edit]