CNBC's Schacknow: The "Domino" Principle

Playing Dominos

Peter Schacknow
Peter Schacknow

Remember the song “One Thing Leads To Another” by The Fixx? An '80s staple on MTV, it could well have been the theme for the day on the Breaking News Desk. One thing led to another, which led to another, which led to another...

Domino No. 1: The Commerce Department announces that it would impose sanctions on Chinese paper imports, the first time in 23 years that duties have been applied to Chinese imports. That domino was handled nicely by CNBC’s Hampton Pearson in Washington, who came on the air immediately to report the story, followed moments later by a news conference featuring Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. I performed the usual drill: writing an intro, preparing the elements, updating as Gutierrez spoke. It went well, and I figured that story was finished. Wrong!

Domino No. 2: Currency traders assess the news, then decide it means higher prices for Chinese imported goods, and upward pressure on inflation. Whether this will actually be the case is obviously unknown at this point. It’s also irrelevant, since, as more than one wise scholar has said (my wife was the most recent), it’s all about expectations.

Domino No. 3: As the dollar falls, equity traders worry about a possible drop in demand for U.S. assets, and the Dow suddenly goes down 106 points, followed by a swift recovery.

I have to admit something here: I almost got caught flatfooted keeping track of the dominos. I was examining the dollar (domino No. 2) when suddenly someone screamed, “Why is the Dow down 100!!???” The Dow had been down about 40 the last time I’d looked -- about 60 seconds prior.

This is where multitasking skills are essential -- the shows have one immediate need: market “dekos” (written onscreen factoids) reflecting what’s happening. I quickly got those together, while trying to figure out what the heck had happened. Just to make things interesting, the market recovered nearly as quickly -- forcing me to update the dekos once again.

This experience was not unlike taking a walk and suddenly realizing you’ve wandered onto the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Memorial Day. Yet there’s something satisfying amid all the madness, in getting it all done with a minimum of angst.

Nonetheless, I need to get a sign made to hang on the Breaking News Desk: “Only Adrenaline Junkies Need Apply.”