The investor-guru story is an annoying staple of business journalism.
These piece often report that “Bill Gross says this” or “Warren Buffett says that” without much context explaining that these guys are almost always talking their book, as they say on Wall Street.
Today we have Bloomberg reporting a straight-news story on noted bear Marc Faber predicting the U.S. is heading for an era of hyperinflation.
Not just any hyperinflation, mind you, like mid-double digits or something. Faber’s talking Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation! As Bloomberg notes, that miserable country’s inflation rate hit nonuple digits in July. Yeah, 231 million percent.
Excuse me for being a little skeptical. Here’s the top:
The U.S. economy will enter “hyperinflation” approaching the levels in Zimbabwe because the Federal Reserve will be reluctant to raise interest rates, investor Marc Faber said.
Prices may increase at rates “close to” Zimbabwe’s gains, Faber said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong. Zimbabwe’s inflation rate reached 231 million percent in July, the last annual rate published by the statistics office.
“I am 100 percent sure that the U.S. will go into hyperinflation,” Faber said. “The problem with government debt growing so much is that when the time will come and the Fed should increase interest rates, they will be very reluctant to do so and so inflation will start to accelerate.”
Bloomberg does follow that top with much milder comments from more level-headed analysts. And it does note, though in the last paragraph, that Faber is loading up on gold.
While presumably about all of its terminal subscribers know that gold is a traditional hedge against inflation, Bloomberg should make that more explicit so its other readers see why Faber might be making such cockamamie statements.
Especially if it’s going to run tabloid-style (or is that Onion-style?) headlines like this:
U.S. Inflation to Approach Zimbabwe Level, Faber Says
This isn’t to say Bloomberg shouldn’t write this story. After all, Faber said it on its own television network. But it should be extra careful handling stories like these, which too often fall into the he said/she said trap.
Just because some lunatic says the earth is flat doesn’t mean you don’t bat it down with heavy skepticism in your news story reporting that some lunatic says the earth is flat.Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.