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April 10, 2011
Melissa Lee
Reporter and Anchor, CNBC
Q&A Podcasts
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Info: Our guest is Melissa Lee of CNBC. She hosts several daily programs for the network including “Fast Money,” “Fast Money Halftime Report,” “Options Actions,” and a new program “Money in Motion.” She has also produced documentaries for CNBC on Coca-Cola, the Bernie Madoff investigation, capitalism in China, and the business of pornography. She started at CNBC in 2004. Prior to that she worked for Bloomberg Television and for CNN Financial News. In this interview, Ms. Lee talks about the challenges of hosting fast paced programming about the financial markets. She discusses her childhood influences that led her to college at Harvard. She also talks about her Asian ancestry and its impact on her work today.


Uncorrected transcript provided by Morningside Partners.
C-SPAN uses its best efforts to provide accurate transcripts of its programs, but it can not be held liable for mistakes such as omitted words, punctuation, spelling, mistakes that change meaning, etc.
Q&A with Melissa Lee

BRIAN LAMB, HOST, Q&A: Melissa Lee, why do you do what you do?

MELISSA LEE, CNBC ANCHOR: I love what I do. I can’t think of anything better in the whole world to do.

The whole – I think the reason behind financial news really is to help people enrich their lives. And it’s – enrich their lives financially – but it really enables them to pursue their dreams.

My grandparents came from another country. They came here to the United States. They invested in businesses. They eventually invested in the stock market, and they sent five children to college.

This is how wealth is created in this country, and this is how many generations are able to advance themselves. That’s what America’s all about.

LAMB: Go back to your grandparents. What year did they come here?

LEE: They came in 1903, or so – a long time ago.

LAMB: From where?

LEE: From Southern China. Taisan (ph) is the province, the village. And they came here, and they started a laundry in Buffalo, New York.

I can’t tell you how they chose Buffalo, New York, of all places, but they were one of the few Chinese people in that whole town.

And that’s what they did. They started their laundry. They had all of their kids work in that laundry, day-in, day-out.

For some time, they slept above the laundry in the building, five kids in one bed. And they just – they made it work. They believed in being here. They believed that by making those sacrifices, their children would have a better life.

And to think that just after that, one generation later, that I can be on TV talking about the U.S. stock market, talking about how you can make money, how you can trade stocks and invest, it’s absolutely thrilling to me.

LAMB: Your parents grew up where?

LEE: My father grew up in Buffalo. He was born and raised there.

And my mother was born in Southern China, as well. And she was the daughter of a wealthy landlord back then before the communists took over.

So, as was the custom back then, he had many households with three wives at one time. That was the custom back then. And my mom was the youngest of his children of the youngest wife.

And when the communists came, basically, my grandfather said, ”You know what? You can use my land. I’m going to take my family to Hong Kong.”

And so, my mom grew up primarily in Hong Kong, and came to the U.S. for college where she studied fashion.

LAMB: Did you know your grandparents?

LEE: I knew my grandmothers, both my grandmothers on both sides. And I knew briefly my mom’s father. But I wasn’t, unfortunately, lucky enough to have a grandfather sort of taking me to the ice cream truck, so to speak.

LAMB: You mentioned that your grandfather’s kids all went to – meaning your father, I guess – went to college. Where?

LEE: My dad went to Columbia University. A lot of my other aunts and uncles went to University of Buffalo, so they stayed local.

But my dad really sort of had the big dreams in the family, and he came down and was able to study at Columbia and live with his older sister, who had settled down in Queens. So, he would commute from Astoria, all the way up to Columbia University every single day and back for quite some time.

LAMB: How long a trip is that … for people not from here?

LEE: That was probably, you know, at least an hour, 20 minutes on the subway one way.

LAMB: What did he study? And what did he do then?

LEE: He studied computer sciences. So, that was back in the day when you used the punch card to program computers, mainframe computers. That was really, you know, at the cusp of the computer age, shall we say.

Ironically, he worked for IBM for some time. But later in years, he sort of lost touch with the computer until fairly recently. He didn’t even know how to operate a mouse.

LAMB: And why recently?

LEE: He just saw that everything was on the Internet, and he wanted to be able to find information.

My dad was a very, very smart man. He loved to learn. He was constantly reading newspapers, trying to – he read all sorts of stock newsletters.

He watches CNBC all day, of course. And not just for me, but also for Cramer, and for lots of other shows – Maria. Those are among his favorites.

But he just – he had this thirst for knowledge. He always wanted to know what were the best places to go eat, where to travel. And I sort of got that from him, I think.

LAMB: What about mom? What did she do?

LEE: My mom was a fashion designer. She designed sportswear until I was born. And then my parents actually started a business. They really thought that working for themselves was going to be the best way to help their family along.

So, they had a number of businesses when I was growing up. One was a drugstore in Queens, I remember growing up.

And the common theme was that, no matter what they did, no matter what business they had, me, my older sister and my younger brother were all expected to work on the weekends at whatever business it was.

So, the drugstore, I was pretty young when they had it. And I had an older sister at the time, and me, and my brother was too young. But he would divide up the tasks, my dad, for age-appropriate tasks.

So, my sister, for instance, would have to take off everything on the high shelves of the drugstore and wipe the shelves down, and I would be in charge of the low shelves, because I was short. But that’s sort of the ethic that we had.

Later on, they closed the drugstore, and they started a furniture, a custom upholstery and drapery business, which sort of tapped into my mom’s love and feel for fashion and my dad’s just desire to create a business that he thought was in need. And we also helped that business along by working on the weekends.

LAMB: OK for you. You ended up getting a bachelor of arts in government at Harvard. How did that happen?

LEE: I thought I could save the world by being a lawyer, for some time.

LAMB: That was your intent when you went to …

LEE: Yes. I thought that I would be – well, actually, I had and abandoned several dreams along the way. And I shouldn’t really say abandoned, because I think that the job I have is the dream job. I just didn’t know it at the time when I was 18 or 19 years old.

When I entered Harvard, I thought I would be a doctor. So, I took all the pre-med courses in college, and I worked at ”the Crimson.” But when I worked at ”the Crimson,” I really loved that sort of environment. I loved the pursuit of the story, and breaking the story and the development of the newspaper.

When I was there, ”the Crimson,” not only did we print – as is tradition, ”the Crimson” is a self-sustaining business, basically. We don’t depend on any funds from the university. We had our own printing presses.

But during the time that I was there, we also put ”the Crimson” on the Internet. So, there were very interesting things going on from a business perspective at ”the Crimson,” as well, that I really loved.

I loved that sort of sense that the business was evolving, and that you can be part of it, and that your story could be posted immediately. I mean, it was very, very exciting.

So, once I got a taste of that, I just – I had to try it. I just had to pursue that a little bit more.

LAMB: Our networks could not be any different. And to show that, we’re going to run a minute, 20 second clip of some of the work that you do, and then come back and talk about why you do it this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE: I’m Melissa Lee. Tonight, top trades and bull market just hours away from its two-year anniversary. Chart expert Carter Morris (ph) has the aging bull market’s next move.

And Facebook de-friends Netflix offering streaming movies. So, is the Netflix run over for good?

Plus a down-and-dirty Street fight between Bernanke and Trichet in the dollar and the euro. We’ll tell you which currency will triumph.

Live from the NASDAQ Marketsite, this is ”Fast Money,” America’s post-market show.

Joe, was it really all about the decline in oil?

Are we in the clear? Or once oil resumes, as Joe says, its upward bias, will we start seeing risk off once again and, therefore, the froth coming out of technology?

In yesterday’s afternoon, the sell-off, we did see technology specifically move sharply lower. I mean …

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It had a pretty lousy take, you are correct

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: …yes you can differentiate….

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:…right…

LEE: But, overall, they do move in a group, once there is that risk-off kind of trade.

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Carter Worth of Oppenheimer. He’s working the Prop Desk for us tonight in Englewood Cliff. Carter, what does the NASDAQ look like from a technical perspective?

CARTER WORTH, OPPENHEIMER: Sure. And …

LEE: Let’s analyze right now, heading into the bull markets to your anniversary tomorrow. Will oil’s sharp swing higher put an end to the run?

Joining us now from the CME is Rich Ilczyszyn, of Lind-Waldock. Rich, great to see you.

That higher oil prices don’t necessarily mean a good thing for a lot of the oil stocks. We had the higher oil, and at a certain point the oil stocks stopped outperforming. We have lower oil today, and the oil stocks didn’t participate again.

And, Tim, you got in there and actually shorted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAMB: How do you do that?

LEE: Talk really fast.

(LAUGHTER)

A lot of coffee.

LAMB: Words like froth, sell-off, prop desk. What’s a prop desk?

LEE: A prop desk, it’s a Wall Street term – proprietary trading desk. That’s when Wall Street firms would trade their own book, so trade for their own profits.

And usually, it’s sort of like day trading. At the end of the day, the prop desk is usually flat out of all positions. But it’s sort of their best proprietary ideas.

And so, when we were brainstorming for that sort of element to the show, we thought, it’s sort of like a prop desk. We’re thinking of the great ideas that nobody else out there is thinking about. And so, that’s what we’ll call it.

So, we like to sort of draw on these Wall Street terms, so that the average person can feel like they’re getting a glimpse of what it’s like to be on Wall Street, and that they’re getting that sort of inside knowledge.

LAMB: What do you envision your audience looking like on an individual basis? Who are you talking to?

LEE: I think we’re talking to – I think primarily it’s the very active investor, who’s sort of the home gamer, the person at home who’s trading for fun. But also, some of the young professionals on Wall Street, the people who can maybe use some of the tips from the traders that we have on the desk.

They have decades of experience in the markets, trading the markets. So, their observations in terms of price action, reactions, you know, to certain events – maybe like the Japanese earthquake – that all can be learned from by the new generation of traders out there.

So, I think it sort of – any kind of active investor, whether it be the home person who’s actively trading their own portfolio, or the active trader on Wall Street on the trading desk.

I know, just from talking to people, that we are on the trading floors. CNBC is on all day. But at the end of the day and the markets are closed, and people are wrapping up their day, they still have ”Fast Money” on. They’re still listening.

LAMB: As you know, we cover the government and politics from Washington, D.C. What does Washington look like from your desk as you’re sitting there talking to America?

LEE: Without making any sort of biased comments, because I think that, in talking about the stock market, one is always agnostic. And I’ve always said that.

As a host and, I think, as a trader, you’re not necessarily a Republican or a Democrat. You’re simply looking at the impact of what government is doing on the financial markets, whether it be the oil markets, or trading, or Wall Street firms.

I think that increased regulation in general means restrictions for companies. Restrictions generally aren’t a good thing.

So, if you can derive from that that one is anti-government, that when you’re a capitalist you want the government out, you can draw that conclusion yourself. But for right now, in general, if you’re taking a look at things like restrictions on how much credit card companies can charge interchange fees, and you’re looking at slicing that, and that’s a source of revenue, obviously, that’s a negative impact on those companies.

So, that’s the way I look at it. Government’s not necessarily bad or good, or capitalistic or not. They do what they do. We have to figure out how you can trade that.

LAMB: What kind of a grade would you give Harvard for teaching you about government?

LEE: Oh, wow. That’s a good question.

I think Harvard is an amazing place. I think that they would get – I think it would get an A minus. And I think that’s the short-fall in terms of the A minus to the A pluses, is on my part, because I spent so much time at ”the Crimson,” I probably didn’t spend enough time at class, personally.

LAMB: Explain ”the Crimson” to someone who’s never read it.

LEE: Sure. ”The Crimson” is a daily newspaper, seven days a week, published by Harvard University students – Harvard undergrads specifically. And again, it’s a self-sustaining company.

It derives its funding solely from advertising sales, subscription sales, so it doesn’t rely on the university. And the point behind that is that, you don’t want to be beholden to the university for funding, if that is what your primary purpose is, to cover the university and its affairs.

So, you don’t want to be biased. And that’s sort of the thinking behind it.

So, it’s the ultimate – it was such a great lesson in journalism and in being unbiased, and making sure that you have a complete sort of cold and, you know, view of things, so that you can really assess them for what they are and have no conflicts of interest.

LAMB: Go back to the beginning. You started talking about your grandparents, and then your father in the business, your mother.

How did you get enough interest in learning that you were able to get into Harvard?

LEE: Is this the ”Tiger Mom” sort of question?

LAMB: Not really. I actually wasn’t even thinking about that. But where did you get that impetus to learn?

LEE: I think that – I felt all the time that there was no choice in the matter, that this was just what my job was as a kid. I mean, there was no if and or buts when it comes to studying, or practicing violin, or anything like that.

I mean, growing up, that’s just what you did. And you didn’t talk back, and there were no alternatives. There were no play dates. I didn’t go on play dates. We had each other to play with, my sister and my younger brother. So, we were like a little self-sustaining unit.

And the expectation was my parents’ job was to work hard and support us, and make sure that we can go to college. And our job was to study and make it to college.

And in terms of that, you know, well, how did you get into Harvard versus another college that might have been easier to get into, it was just the expectation. It was the expectation that you shot for the stars. And the stars in my view was Harvard. And for my sister, it was Barnard. And for my brother it was Columbia.

So, it wasn’t that my parents were so rigid that, oh, you didn’t get into Harvard, so you’re a failure. But within the framework of their own abilities, of our own abilities, they expected us to live up to our potentials. And that – there was just no way around that, no way around that.

LAMB: You brought up the ”Tiger Mom” issue, because it’s been in the news a lot lately. What do you think of that? What do you think of the fall-out from all that?

LEE: I think there’s some element of truth. And I think that – I think the author said it the best. It’s not about Asian ideals, the hope that your children will work hard and live up to their potentials, and that the parents will be the biggest believer of their children. It’s about – it’s really the American Dream.

And I guess that goes to the opening question, because isn’t it all about the American Dream for your children to do better than what you’ve done? That’s the whole point of this. That’s why we are here.

That’s why parents become parents. They want the best for their children. They want their children to live up to their potential, whatever that may be.

So, I think it’s interesting that people came away from that discussion thinking, is the Asian way of parenting better? You can call it the Asian way of parenting, but I think, at heart, it taps into American ideals.

LAMB: Have you ever been treated differently because you’re an Asian American?

LEE: Oh, absolutely.

LAMB: In what ways?

LEE: All the time. All the time. I mean, even professionally. It’s amazing in this day and age. I’ve gone to many remote locations for various shoots, places that Asian Americans, you know, they don’t go, they don’t live.

I did a coal mining story. And so, we went to a very small town in West Virginia. I’m standing out there during a stand-up, where you just shoot to camera; you’re talking to the camera. And somebody comes by and shouts, ”Connie Chung.” That’s the only Asian American that they’ve had contact with as a newscaster.

And to me, that’s shocking. It’s a sad state. But I’m glad I can be out there and say, you know what, she’s not the only one.

LAMB: There’s not – it wasn’t Connie Chung, but for you it was Kaity Tong?

LEE: It was Kaity Tong.

LAMB: And where did she work? And explain that.

LEE: At the time, she was one of the local anchors for the 5 and 11 o’clock news on ABC, the local – WABC in New York.

And she was, for me, the first Asian American, Chinese American I had ever seen on TV. And so, I wrote her a letter when I was 11. And I just told her that I was a big fan, I watched her every night on the five o’clock news. I wanted to become a newscaster when I grew up.

And she invited me and my mom to the set, and we met everybody. I have a picture of her and me on the WABC set, sitting there.

So, it was a thrill years later. I was with Bloomberg, and we used to do the cut-ins for WPIX, which was Channel 11 here in New York. And she switched over to PIX.

And we actually had a moment where she tossed to me, where she said, ”Let’s get the latest business headlines. Let’s go to Melissa Lee at Bloomberg.”

And I was, like, I cannot believe this is happening. This is my idol tossing to me.

LAMB: Have you talked to her since all this?

LEE: I have not, directly. I have not.

LAMB: Is she still active?

LEE: Oh, she’s out there, yes.

LAMB: Still on.

LEE: Yes, still on.

LAMB: In this city.

LEE: Still on in the city.

LAMB: Your work experience, when you got out of Harvard, where did you go?

LEE: I was a management consultant.

LAMB: Where?

LEE: In Mercer Management Consulting in Boston.

LAMB: Consulting about what?

LEE: Businesses. We restructured businesses. I did a lot of case work in financial services, specifically.

In Boston, at the time when I graduated in 1995, there was a lot of consolidation in the banking industry. A lot of banks in Boston were just merging with one another, gobbling each other up. So, there is a lot of work to be done.

And that was a great experience, because not only did you learn how to program a spreadsheet – yes, I did that – or put together a PowerPoint presentation. Those were all valuable skills. But also, being on the ground in businesses four days a week or so. We were just sort of living and breathing that particular business.

That was a very good experience for later on, because it really gave me an insight as to how things actually work, and what the dynamics can be between bosses and their – people who they manage.

A lot of the work that we did, because it was consolidation work, was restructuring, which meant lay-offs. And that really gave you sort of the human side of things. You go in there, and you do these work flow charts where you ask people, what do you do? And then, at the end of the day, you put this chart together, and you decide who to cut. And it makes it really real.

You know, when I report on lay-offs today, you can say, so-and-so company laying off 10,000 people. I will always remember those days when I was at that bank, and you would give the news to people, and you’d walk into the restroom shortly afterwards, and those people would be in there crying, because their – they don’t know what else to do.

They’ve got a family. They are the sole income provider in the family. They’ve got an aging parent. I mean, it put a face to the whole thing.

LAMB: How long did you do that?

LEE: I did that for about two years or so.

LAMB: Your first television job came when?

LEE: It came in – hope I get the dates right – 1997. I left consulting, not because I didn’t enjoy it. I really did.

But I sort of got to a fork in the road, where I was in a program where, if you were doing well, they would pay you – basically pay your way through business school, if you came back and worked for a certain number of years afterwards. And so, I was deciding whether or not to do that, or to go into TV.

And I can never forget the conversations I would have with my dad. He was like, obviously, you go to business school. You get the education. It’s free. How can you turn that down? It’s a no-brainer.

But I said, you know what? If I don’t try this, I’ll always wonder. I’ll always wonder if I could have made it. And I don’t want to live with that regret. Business school will always be there.

And I’m telling you this story in a span of five seconds, but this was, obviously, a long, drawn-out decision. And it was really nerve-wracking …

LAMB: What was his reaction …

LEE: … and agonizing.

LAMB: … when you actually went into television?

LEE: I believe he said, I think you’re making a mistake, but you can come back home. You can live at home while you’re exploring the TV thing.

LAMB: And what does he think today?

LEE: He – well, obviously, he thinks he told me the wrong thing at the time. But it was a big gamble. And I think, for Asian parents, particularly when you want to see your child succeed, and the path that they choose is not a clear one, there are concerns.

So, I’m glad that he told me those reservations, in a way, because it made me work even harder. I didn’t want this to not work out. I was going to make it happen.

LAMB: So, that first job was in what location?

LEE: CNNfn in New York. CNNfn, which is now defunct. But I got an entry-level job as a production assistant. And I printed scripts. I edited video. I did everything.

LAMB: Did you know at the time that you wanted on-air work?

LEE: Yes. Absolutely. The game plan was I would give it until I was 30, which seemed at the time like really old.

And if it didn’t seem like I was going to break into being on-air by 30, then I would give it up and go back to consulting, or find some other work.

LAMB: So, how long did you stay there?

LEE: I stayed there for a couple of years. And that’s when it got to the point where the opportunities seemed to be running out.

So, I went to Bloomberg. And that’s where it was the Wild West of opportunities, because Bloomberg’s TV operations at the time were pretty nascent.

So, I always felt that the less clear things were, the better path you can make for yourself. So, I saw that.

And people thought I was crazy. Why would I leave CNN and go to Bloomberg? Bloomberg didn’t have TV operations, really. That’s going to be a career-ender. But …

LAMB: Did you have an agent in this time period?

LEE: No. I just …

LAMB: Do you have one now?

LEE: I have one now. Yes.

LAMB: And what triggered the agent need?

LEE: When I wanted to go from Bloomberg to CNBC, I figured, if I want to play in the big leagues, I’ve got to get a – I’ve got to play like I am in the big leagues and have an agent.

LAMB: Was that a hard decision?

LEE: I think that the decision to part with 10 percent of your salary every year is always a hard decision. But you have to look at it in the long run. It’s not a financial decision per se.

You’re running a marathon when you’re planning your career out. You’re not sprinting. It’s not a race, it’s a marathon.

LAMB: All through this you’re still single.

LEE: Oh, yes.

LAMB: Could you be married and have children, and do all this? Many of your colleagues do that?

LEE: I think most of my colleagues have done that, yes.

LAMB: And what’s the verdict …

LEE: What’s the hold-up?

LAMB: … what’s the – no, no. Oh, no, no, no. That’s your business.

(LAUGHTER)

What’s the verdict on trying to do all this and have a family at the same time?

LEE: I don’t know how – I respect my colleagues tremendously, those colleagues who have families, because I can barely get myself out the door in the morning, let alone getting little people out the door, as well.

LAMB: Here you are talking about options, whatever that is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE: Options action begins now.

SCOTT WAPNER, CNBC: Ah, the show was so big; we had to do it from two locations tonight. The boys are up at the NASDAQ Marketsite in Times Square. Melissa Lee will be along in just a few minutes.

The world’s largest equity options exchange is the NASDAQ. This is ”Options Action.” I’m Scott Wapner here at the NYSE.

LEE: Where were options traders pumping up the volume this week? TiVo. At one point, call volume was six times the average daily volume.

And welcome back to ”Options Action.” You just heard how TiVo calls are heating up that sizzle index.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. Where the heck have you been here? Right? We’ve got your watch here. You must have left it backstage here. I mean, Melissa, please. Let’s be on time here. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought that was yours. When did you start wearing a ladies watch?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, here’s the watch. By the way, don’t forget. You have to set it ahead an hour this weekend.

LEE: Yes, OK, guys. Very funny. Yes, I guess the new time slot really got me a little bit confused.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five o’clock on Fridays.

LEE: In all honesty, guys, out there …

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s every Friday, five o’clock, from here on out. OK?

LEE: I would never miss this day. I’ve been looking forward to this day for a very long time in our new time slot. It’s just the traffic was a little bit of a difficulty today.

But it is good to be here. And you just heard how TiVo calls were heating up that sizzle index.

So, Scott, got to ask you, what do you make of the action?

WAPNER: TiVo. You can watch the first 15 minutes of the show …

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: Oh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAMB: So, how often does that happen?

LEE: That was the first time ever. And I made it to here on time. Just wanted to …

LAMB: Yes, you did. But …

LEE: I got here on time.

LAMB: But, I mean, that stuff happens all the time in television, from – you know, on occasion.

What’s the plan? What do they – how do they back it up? Or …

LEE: They hope that another anchor is around to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, my colleague, Scott Wapner, is a super-capable anchor and proficient in options, as well. And so, he was able to fill in at the last minute.

But it was traffic. And again, it had never – in two years of doing that commute from Englewood Cliffs to the NASDAQ Marketsite, that had never happened to me,

LAMB: For folks who don’t live around here …

LEE: Yes.

LAMB: … where do you – what part of the city do you live in?

LEE: I live on the East Side of Manhattan.

LAMB: And how long does it take you to get to Englewood Cliffs?

LEE: It takes about 30, 35 minutes in the morning.

LAMB: Got to go under the river, or over the bridge?

LEE: Yes.

LAMB: And then, when do you go there?

LEE: I usually – I get into the office between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m. I start my day earlier, though. I usually start it from home, and I’m reading everything. That’s sort of my routine.

Getting into the office is sort of a formality.

LAMB: When’s your first program, then?

LEE: My first program is at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, which is the ”Fast Money Halftime Report.” And that’s sort of the mid-day, what’s moving in the market, what trades are traders looking at right now. What’s the latest Wall Street research hitting the tape?

LAMB: Why do you call it ”Fast Money”?

LEE: Because the timeframe is not the buy-and-hold investor. It is – it is probably the next – it could be the next 10 minutes. It could be the next 10 seconds. It could be the next 10 days. It could be the next couple of months.

LAMB: Do you play the market?

LEE: We are not allowed to play the market.

LAMB: At all?

LEE: We are allowed to invest in mutual funds and ETFs. But we are audited. And there’s a strict standard here, so there will be no conflicts of interest.

So, when I’m on talking about whatever stock, and I may choose to bring up that stock repeatedly for 10 days, there is no reason behind that, other than an editorial decision that I have made, or my producers have made.

LAMB: What’s the difference between Las Vegas and the stock market?

LEE: Las Vegas is simply odds. The stock market you have to use market intelligence. You have to use your brain.

LAMB: And do you have evidence that, if you use your brain, you aren’t going to go lose your 30 percent that we did in the last financial downturn?

LEE: Well, I think that the evidence can be seen across Wall Street. Some of the most successful hedge fund managers use their brains. And they bet against subprime, for instance, and they made a killing, made a fortune.

I think that there are always examples of using your brain and how that pays off when it comes to returns, whether it be a mutual fund or a hedge fund, for that matter.

Using your brain can also get you in a lot of trouble.

LAMB: In what way?

LEE: It’s all a matter of how you use it. Well, you can come up with the wrong conclusion. People do that all the time.

LAMB: In all the books that have been written, do you get a chance to see those, you talk about them, about the financial crisis?

LEE: We have, in the past. Some of the financial – I mean, that’s sort of not our cup of tea on the shows that I do. We really cater to sort of the very active trader. So, we don’t spend a lot of time opining about what has happened in the past, unless it has a direct impact on what is happening right now.

LAMB: Do you yourself read those books?

LEE: Yes.

LAMB: Do you have a favorite of all those that you read, that – in other words, if you’re a layperson and you’re trying to figure out all this that’s just gone on in the last couple of years, where would you send somebody?

LEE: Oh, that’s a really tough one.

LAMB: Just to learn the basics.

LEE: There’s so, so, so many out there. I think – I think David Faber’s book is fantastic.

LAMB: He works at CNBC?

LEE: He works at CNBC. When it comes to understanding the housing crisis, I think for most people, that’s what they want to understand. I think Andrew Ross Sorkin has also written a very fine book.

But there are so many out there these days, it’s really amazing. And even just my colleagues have written several, several books out there.

I think, though, you know – I think for the average person out there, it’s important to understand what has happened. It’s also important to understand how to move forward.

LAMB: Now, do you have a book in you?

LEE: I’ve been asked that question many times. I would like to – I enjoy writing, so I like the idea of writing a book. I don’t feel like I have a book in me about the financial crisis. I think that time has passed in terms of the opportune window to get a book out.

That also was not my area of expertise. I wasn’t reporting on Wall Street at that time, when the crisis unfolded.

Whether or not there’s a ”Fast Money” book in me, possibly. But I can’t really commit.

LAMB: Go back to ”Options Action” that we just looked at. What is an option?

LEE: An option basically is the right to buy or sell a stock at a certain price in the future.

LAMB: Just the right.

LEE: The right. The right to buy or sell a stock.

LAMB: How much do you have to pay for it? Say a stock’s trading for $30. What’s an option cost you?

LEE: It depends. It’s not like I can tell you it’s .1 percent of the stock’s value. It all depends on how liquid the stock is and what the volatility of a stock is.

So, for instance, if you’re taking a look at a very volatile stock, meaning a stock that moves up and down significantly over the course of a certain amount of time, then the option will be more expensive.

Because the stock moves so much, the chances of it hitting that level, high or low, is greater, because it moves much more. So, that right is going to cost you more money.

LAMB: Isn’t that gambling?

LEE: I guess, if you believe that gambling, in the purest sense of the word, is simply putting money down, hoping that that money will turn into a bigger pay-out, then I guess, yes, you can call it gambling.

If you are going to do that simply based on odds, and simply based on – I don’t know – throwing a dart against the wall, then absolutely, it’s gambling.

But if you’re going to do that because you know that Apple is launching its iPad, that the weekend sales you believe are going to be great, or you think that the Japanese earthquake is going to have a limited impact on the market, and so, therefore, you want to sell calls on Apple, or buy calls on Apple for those reasons, then that’s an educated – I don’t want to say guess – but you have a thesis to your investment.

So, I don’t think you can call that gambling.

LAMB: There’s a new program called Money in Action?

LEE: ”Money in Motion.” Close.

LAMB: ”Money in Motion.” What’s that now? Where does that come?

LEE: That’s a show devoted to currency trading. It’s the only show entirely devoted to currency trading. And the currency markets, it’s a huge market. It’s actually the biggest market in the world.

Even though the stock market gets all the headlines, everybody follows stocks; the currency market is a $4 trillion market. And some estimates put retail investing at about 10 percent. And that number is growing.

So, in devising this show and launching at this time, we sort of recognize the fact that, A, investors want alternative assets to stocks. Yes, they love the stock market, but they want to know where else they can make money. They want to know where else they can hedge their stock bets.

Because in the financial crisis, if there’s anything people learned from that experience, that is that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. You’ve got to be able to trade lots of different things.

LAMB: When’s the program run?

LEE: It runs Fridays, 5:30 p.m. Eastern time on CNBC.

LAMB: Let’s watch a clip of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE: This is ”Money in Motion,” your passport to the global currency market. I’m Melissa Lee.

Here’s where the money’s moving tonight.

A tragic quake rocks Japan and up-ends the currency market, throwing the global recovery in doubt, and sending the yen soaring. We’ll tell you its next move and how currency traders are reacting.

Plus, the buck gets a bid. Chaos in the Mideast and a sovereign swoon in Europe have traders back in the greenbacks. But will the move continue? And what’s your trade?

And take a look at this chart. You see jagged lines. We see opportunity. We’ll take you to the money map to help you profit from the patterns.

”Money in Motion” starts now.

Days like today are why you need currencies as part of your portfolio. Trillions trade hands every day, and we’re here to teach you how to do that right now.

I’m Melissa Lee. Welcome to ”Money in Motion.” These are the traders, and let’s get right to it.

Obviously, the action today centered on the yen. Rebecca Patterson of J.P. Morgan, sort of counterintuitive perhaps?

REBECCA PATTERSON, J.P. MORGAN: Yes, I mean, today, the events that happened in Japan obviously were a tragedy. And we think about the people. But our jobs are to follow markets, and the markets don’t stop. And today was about the yen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAMB: Now, some people would have looked at that and say, yes, we care about the people, but let’s keep moving. Money, money, money.

LEE: It’s your choice. Obviously, you are concerned about the welfare of the people in Japan and around the world who might be impacted by this earthquake and the tsunami afterwards.

But at the same time, the financial markets are still going. And it’s your choice to whether or not to focus on the devastation, or to also take a look at how you can profit from it. Because the markets will go on with or without you. It’s up to you.

LAMB: Now, there was one reference in there, and there’s often references to language that the average person might not understand. Jagged lines. What does that mean?

LEE: Well, we’re just referring to the fact that, in currency trading, technical analysis – so, in other words, charting the pattern of a currency and how it moves over time – is a very important tool, particularly in currency markets, because currencies tend to be very predictable in that way. That’s just the way that market works.

And so, that segment specifically takes a look at charts and sees different patterns and can identify a break-out or breakdown in a currency. So, is it a buying opportunity, or should you sell?

LAMB: How often in your work as anchor do you interview political people?

LEE: Not very often at all. Not very often.

LAMB: How often in your work do you worry and – I mean, not worry – but you talk about Washington and what they’re doing down there and the impact that the regulation changes, and all that, has on the market?

LEE: It depends on the time. But for instance, during the mid-term elections, all the time. During election season, all the time.

It definitely has – and I have noticed over the past couple of years since I took over ”Fast Money,” that it has increased greatly in terms of government’s role in things. And that’s partly because of the financial crisis.

Since then, government has sort of stepped up its role in various industries, not just the financial industry. And so, therefore, you do talk about the government.

Do we need to talk to a congressperson whose only interest is to talk about, I don’t know, the impact of his or her bill? Probably not.

Can we boil the bill down into a bunch of bullet points and then bring on an analyst or an investor who specializes in that area, to really get the trade and understand how it’ll impact companies? Yes. And that’s what we do.

We try not, in fact – I try not, in fact – to have politicians on, because I find that the conversation is very one-way. They have an agenda. That’s fine. Bring it to another station. Bring it to another show.

LAMB: That last clip – there was more action in that last clip that went on about a minute and something, than there is in C-SPAN in a month.

(LAUGHTER)

And the reason I mention that is because, you know, we started 32 years ago when television was much different. Now, the screens twist, the music – the swishes come in and all that. That’s in your time period, though.

When did it start? And why?

LEE: I don’t know when it started. I think that it’s the expectation that information is not dry and that you can have good information and be entertaining as well.

I think CNBC has sort of always had that tradition. And the fact that we bring in more graphics and swooshes and music, et cetera, that’s – I don’t want to say unique – but can be found much more on some of the shows that I host, because we cater to sort of the trader, the person who might also like ESPN, who sees this not as a game in that it’s all fun and games, but that this is really something.

There’s action. There are definite movements. There is a set – there’s a sense of a trading session. There’s half-time at the trading session.

So, all these sort of relationships to sports we try and draw on. And we try and make it interesting.

I mean, we joke around a lot on my shows. We have a fantastic panel. On every show that I do, we have some great personalities. And we like to show the personality, because it’s not just the information. We want it to be an experience for people, because we think that we have great information.

The editorial content is amazing. It’s completely sound. But if we can also inject a little fun in the whole thing, then I think that’s a winning package.

LAMB: Well, a couple of other examples is the background always is moving.

LEE: Yes.

LAMB: And then the camera is always moving.




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