Bush vs. Ben: Welcome to the breaking news desk’s unsolvable Wednesday mystery. We were geared up for the event of the day: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s semi-annual economic testimony before Congress.
Then came word that President Bush would hold a news conference at 11 am Eastern Time -- right smack in the middle of Bernanke’s appearance.
The following is a non-political statement, but I can’t imagine why the White House would want to schedule a news conference during an event that -- while not the viewing choice of the average American -- was certainly going to capture the attention of Wall Street and the markets.
OK, I do have a hidden agenda. Such scheduling not only pits the President versus the Fed chairman, it means the breaking news desk has to pay attention to two events at the same time. It also means that the producers have to decide what to air.
In the end, we stuck (mostly) with Bernanke, dipping into the first few minutes of the President before going back to the Fed chairman. I monitored Bernanke, while chaining executive producer Nick Dunn to the desk to watch the President. OK, I didn't really do that -- I asked nicely and Nick graciously said yes. I believe he also said, "You owe me!"
Bernanke’s comments sent the markets soaring, so it appears we made the right choice. At this writing, the Dow Industrials, Transports, and Utilities are poised to set closing records on the same day for the first time since March 17, 1998.
And How Did We Know That?: As soon as I saw the “new record” indicator flash for all three of those Dow indicators, I immediately wondered, as any good trivia freak might, when that might have happened last. I remembered that, during the final days of the market bubble in 2000, skeptics were warning that the rise in the Industrials wasn’t being confirmed by the Transports -- so I figured it had to be a few years before that.
I’d like to say that by brilliant deduction and memory, I was able to determine the answer, but alas, it’s not true. I asked our CNBC/Wall Street Journal liaisons to dip into the very deep Dow Jones research pool and find out. They did. And that’s how I know it was March 17, 1998.