What Are Elves?

Elves is a nickname for the 10 technical analysts who appeared regularly on the PBS television show "Wall Street Week." The show aired between 1970 and 2005, and the analysts attempted to predict the direction of stock prices for the next six months using technical analysis.

Key Takeaways:

  • Elves is a nickname for the 10 technical analysts who appeared on the PBS television show "Wall Street Week," which aired from 1970 and 2005.
  • The analysts used technical analysis to predict the direction of stock prices for the next six months.
  • The term "elf"  was a playful reference to the Gnomes of Zurich, a term coined by Harold Wilson, British shadow chancellor of the exchequer, which referred to bankers in Switzerland with a reputation for secrecy.

Understanding the Elves

Elves is a slang term for the technical analysts on the show Wall Street Week, who attempted to predict the direction of the market and gained popularity due to their inability to make accurate predictions. Long-time show host Louis Rukeyser coined the term "elves" to describe the 10 analysts who were frequent guests from the show’s premiere on Nov. 20, 1970, until immediately after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The elves used two indices based on technical indicators. The first was the Wall Street Index that was used between 1970 and 1989. This index was considered useful. The second index was the Elves Index used between 1989 and 2001. The latter was applied as a contrarian index, and at least one analysis suggested that investors should do the opposite of what the Elves Index advised.

The term "elf" was a playful reference to the Gnomes of Zurich, a term coined by Harold Wilson, British shadow chancellor of the exchequer, which referred to bankers in Switzerland with a reputation for discrete policies.

The Elves' Predictions

The elves' predictions on Wall Street Week, which ran every Friday night, were based purely on their technical analysis rather than economic fundamentals and were rarely correct. Their views were combined into the Elves Index, which host Louis Rukeyser showed to viewers on each week's broadcast. This index was deeply negative in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks, and Rukeyser discontinued both the elves and the index at that point. Fox News revived "Wall Street Week" in 2015 but did not bring back the elves.

Wall Street Week

Wall Street Week was created by producer Anne Truax Darlington for Maryland Public Broadcasting, which is part of PBS. Darlington recruited Louis Rukeyser to host the show, which premiered on just 11 stations of the Eastern Educational Television Network (EETN). EETN is now known as American Public Television, and it is the oldest distributor of public television programming in the United States.

Wall Street Week quickly became one of the most popular programs on the PBS network. At the height of the show's popularity, it ran on more than 300 stations and had a weekly viewership of more than 4.1 million.

Louis Rukeyser

Wall Street Week host Luis Rukeyser was a graduate of Princeton University who worked as a correspondent for the Baltimore Sun newspaper and ABC television before his hosting duties. Rukeyser was known for frequently using puns in his broadcasts. He regarded his audience as intelligent people who were not experts in either economics or the financial markets.

Rukeyser hosted Wall Street Week on PBS until 2002, at which time the producers decided to replace him with a younger host. They renamed the show Wall Street Week "Fortune," named after Fortune magazine, but it never had the same success and was canceled in June 2005. Rukeyser went on to host Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street on CNBC for several years but left in 2003 for medical reasons. He died of bone cancer in May 2006.