Long-Time AP Wall Street Writer Dies

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Chet Currier, whose stock market and investing stories were fixtures in newspapers across the U.S. during a 29-year career at The Associated Press, died Sunday. He was 62.

Currier, who also worked for Bloomberg News, died of prostate cancer at a hospice in Santa Monica, Calif., his son Craig said Monday.

A prolific writer, Currier for years reported the Wall Street story as it developed throughout the trading day, also turning out three weekly columns on the markets and personal finance: Weekly Wall Street, Ticker Talk and On The Money. He later launched two columns on mutual fund investing for the AP.

He also turned a passion for crossword puzzles into a side career, creating more than 1,000 Sunday-size puzzles for the AP over the course of 20 years.

Currier viewed the stock market realistically – over the long term, it was likely to go up, but along the way it most certainly was going to suffer plenty of pullbacks, consolidations and shifts from bull to bear and back again.

His writing was clear and concise, two critcal elements in explaining the complexities of a stock market to millons of readers who were more likely to get their financial news from their local newspapers than the The Wall Street Journal.

Currier reported about mutual funds before the average investor knew much about them. “I saw my job really as, first of all, kind of educating people that they didn’t have to keep their money in a bank savings account any longer. They had new choices,” he said during a 2005 interview that was part of an AP oral history project.

“Chet had a talent and instinct for bringing to life investing and managing money. He took ideas and themes that other people made complicated and explained them simply, but not simplistically,” said Michael Millican, a former AP business editor, now president of Robert Marston Corporate Communications.

“Chet Currier defined the Wall Street beat for The Associated Press at a time when millions of average Americans were becoming stock and mutual fund owners,” said Jim Kennedy, AP vice president and director of strategic planning. “He literally opened the territory for the general news audience.”

Kennedy, who directed the AP’s business news staff in the late 1980s and early ’90s, said Currier’s finest moment may have been his daily coverage of the stock market crash of October 1987. “He was able to put an unprecedented event into perspective almost immediately,” Kennedy recalled.

Currier covered the stock market almost daily from 1974 until 1992, then became a full-time columnist. If a triple-digit swing in the Dow Jones industrials unnerved him, he didn’t show it in the newsroom.

“He was wise and calm, able to write rapidly and incisively, and had a deep understanding of markets,” said Floyd Norris, an AP business writer from 1979 to 1981 and now chief financial correspondent at The New York Times. “I remember watching in admiration and awe as he covered the silver market crisis brought on by the Hunt brothers in 1980.”

On Oct. 13, 1989, the day of what became known as the Friday the 13th mini-crash, when the Dow Jones industrials plunged a then-unnerving 190 points and revived fears of another collapse like the October 1987 debacle, Currier showed his ability to write a story that was straightforward and that also put a big Wall Street move into context:

“NEW YORK (AP) – The biggest selloff since the crash of 1987 rocked the stock market Friday, driving prices into a free-fall decline following news that a big buyout deal for UAL Corp. had fallen through.

“The sudden slide came almost exactly two years after a similar Friday-afternoon rout that preceded Black Monday on Oct. 19, 1987.

“But many Wall Streeters insisted it was far too soon to declare that another collapse was in the making.”

Indeed, there wasn’t another collapse ahead.

Currier didn’t climb on bandwagons, didn’t try to time the market and believed that being a long-term diversified investor was the smartest course. Norris said that while Currier didn’t try to forecast the markets, “he was better at it than those who were in that business.”

In 1999, he received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

At Bloomberg, which Currier joined in 1999, he wrote columns twice a week on Wall Street, bonds, mutual funds and investing. His last article was published June 29, according to Jim Greiff, columns editor for Bloomberg.

“It was classic Chet, clear, concise and insightful,” Greiff said.

Currier was fascinating to watch at his craft, tending to write in spurts. He would sit quietly, deep in thought, or go outside for a break; he’d then turn back to his computer and begin pounding away furiously at the keyboard, not stopping until he was done. Norris recalled that when he was working on a crossword puzzle, the rest of the staff would occasionally hear an odd question from Currier’s corner such as, “Who had the first name Norma?”

Sometimes irascible, he had strong opinions that he wasn’t afraid to voice. But he also had a sense of humor that had him making pithy, acerbic and sometimes earthy assessments of people in their daily lives, all the while flashing a big smile across his broad face.

He was also patient when needed, teaching and encouraging younger staffers as they wrote their first stock market stories.

A man of eclectic tastes, he was well-read on a range of topics, loved to talk about the music he listened to growing up in the 1950s and ’60s and about sports. He thoroughly enjoyed betting on horses no matter how well he fared, and told a co-worker, “the only thing better than a losing day at the track is a winning day at the track.”

Chester S. Currier was born in New York in 1945, and lived most of his life in Connecticut before moving to Southern California more than a year ago. He received his bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, served in the U.S. Navy and did a stint at Fairchild Communications before joining the AP in Kansas City in 1970. Two years later, he moved to the cooperative’s world headquarters in New York as a business writer and became its full-time Wall Street writer in 1974.

“At that time, the Dow was sagging under 600, mutual funds were thought to be an endangered species, and the AP was just beginning to broaden its coverage of investing and personal finance,” Currier once wrote.

Currier also wrote several books, among them “The Investor’s Encyclopedia,” “The 15-Minute Investor,” “Careers in the ’80s” and “Careers in the ’90s.”

Besides his son, he is survived by his wife Carol and his daughter Dana.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday.

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