The great competitive advantage of online news is that it is (supposedly) always up-to-the-minute. At least that's the theory. But the stock market's gyrations mean this: Watch the number, not the news.
Here's how the market looked to editors of various prime business news services online at 1:02 p.m. today.
Forbes was telling its visitors that stocks were headed lower (see headline in upper right corner), even though the market at that point (it said) was up 151.41 points (see "Markets" box lower down).
CNN was telling its visitors that stocks were cutting their losses. It pegged the Dow Jones Industrial Average at being 117.88 points up, though.
TheStreet.com had stocks even.
While MarketWatch, now part of News Corporation and Dow Jones, played it more smartly, just noting that stocks were moving into "higher gear" and used the deck to keep note of which way the movement was headed. It had it right, for that moment: Up.
Meanwhile, the editors of the Wall Street Journal, also part of News Corporation and Dow Jones, played it even smarter. Maybe by design, maybe not. In any case, the top of its home page only showed the number (DJIA up 168.61 points).
So don't bedevil yourself. Reporting on the market before it closes is pretty much a losing proposition now, even online. There isn't even that close agreement on the number, because of what can happen in a 15-minute or 20-minute delay, now.
Besides, following the market now is much like watching a basketball game. In hoops, you only need to watch the last two minutes. With traders still on pins and needles, all that really matters is the last hour.
Hold onto your seats again, as the market decides whether it's in a good mood or bad, in the last 45 minutes of the week.
If you really want to watch what happens, live and up to the instant, get a Bloomberg terminal. Or turn on CNBC.