Many people live, die, and puke by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard & Poor’s 500, the Hang Seng, and dozens of other market indices. Trouble is, a market index is necessarily a way-up-high view that blurs the values of the individual stocks, bonds, and pork bellies it gathers. The collective measure gives a broad indication, to which we consumers of news attach way too much importance.
Besides, bumps in the Dow slide through our days like common airplane turbulence. In most cases, they don’t affect us. And face it: most things that are industrial are average.
So what are the numerically inclined, news-hungry masses to do? Are there any indices we can glom onto that will do us any good?
I’m here to help. Below, a collection of proposed indices whose daily movements would really influence our daily movements, complete with shovel-ready sponsorships.
- In ‘n’ Out Burger National Weight Index: The SoCal purveyor of irresistible, made-to-order hamburgers should sponsor an index that shows our nationwide girth factor rising or falling, by tenths of an ounce, from 11 a.m. EST through to 10 p.m. That way, people craving a Double-Double Animal Style for lunch could determine whether to roar ahead (fat index down) or tame their instincts (index up; big sell-off).
- Prozac Stress Index: Are we worried? Do we, as a nation, need a cup of chamomile tea? An elevated stress index (expressed as a flashing systolic/diastolic fraction on a big board in Times Square) could guide us as to when to make a key presentation, when to ask the boss for a raise, or whether to even bother driving home on the 405.
- Unique & Rich’s 100: Rather than a numerical index, this metric involves a website presenting brief stories of 100 people who were smart enough to realize investing is for the long haul, losses and gains will happen, and that you have to ride it out to reach a net gain by the time you hit retirement. People exit and enter the list based on whether they have recently day-traded, thought for more than 15 seconds about holding periods, or seriously demanded a 10 percent return on that AT&T they’ve been hanging onto for five friggin’ DAYS already….
- Manhattan Parking Exchange: This bustling commodities market traffics in futures on places to store a non-running vehicle between South Ferry and 145th Street. Supply and demand work their magic on otherwise sane traders, who become screaming Yahoos right out of Swift during the once-an-hour pit sessions. Fevered cries of “GARAGE ON EAST FORTY-NINTH! U-N! SELL SELL SELL SELL!” and “LINCOLN CENTER! LINCOLN CENTER!” echo from the concrete rafters, while outside, 500 meter maids wait…and listen…and grin.
- Napa Valley Growers Association Wine Snobbery Index: Much more muted — and frankly a bit tipsy, owing to the lack of spit buckets — is this exchange, where oenophiles convene to determine the wine descriptors of faddish choice. Skeptics still maintain that illegal trading practices by Smuckers forced the word “jammy” onto an inordinate number of wine labels in the early 2000s. But vigorous trading continues, resulting in labels and tweed-jacketed discussions featuring words such as “plummy,” “pencil-point,” “cedar-ash” and “Proustian regret.” Sanity is said to have returned, briefly, when the board instituted automatic trading controls. It was those measures that shut down the use of the word “currant” on the fateful day in 2009 when everyone realized they would not know a currant if a dump truck backed up to them and deposited two tons of the tiny fruits on their heads.♦
© 2013 Adam Barr