Jim Cramer and the stock market

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Zev Chafets profiles CNBC “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer for the upcoming edition of the New York Times magazine,

Chafets writes, “Cramer picks stocks on the air, but he is not allowed to own any (the exceptions are shares of TheStreet.com, General Electric, CNBC’s old parent company and Comcast, its new parent company). He runs a charitable portfolio, Action Alerts Plus, which is governed by a trust and is open to public scrutiny. He can’t trade a stock he mentions on the air for at least five business days, and he must hold whatever he buys for at least 30 days. These rules make it impossible for him to engage in the hyperaggressive buying and selling of his hedge-fund days. Still, most years the Action Alerts Plus portfolio has beaten the S.&P. 500.

“Cramer’s flamboyance and cockiness make him an easy target. Some maintain that it is simply impossible for any human to recommend as many stocks as he does (Barron’s, in 2007, put the number at 7,000 a year) and know what he is talking about. Barron’s conceded that Cramer’s advice was ‘generally smart, his knowledge of individual stocks amazingly detailed’ but calculated that his on-air picks trailed the market. This is debatable, since Cramer doesn’t give equal weight to all his recommendations and doesn’t normally tell people when to sell.

“But the more damning criticism of Cramer comes from Wall Street professionals who know how much expertise it takes to make money trading stocks. Amateurs, in their view, don’t stand a chance, and Cramer is merely egging them on. ‘Cramer induces his viewers to do things that are bad for them,’ says David Swensen, who manages Yale University’s endowment. ‘He’s smart enough to know what he’s doing. ‘Mad Money’ delivers a very dangerous message — that individual investors can beat the market with momentum-driven, high-octane trading strategies. There are individuals who do beat the market, but their number is vanishingly small. Cramer is a master manipulator. He has absolutely no accountability. This is serious business; people’s retirements are at stake.’”

Read more here.