Cue the theme to “Rocky.”
Wall Street, already known for being a rough-and-tumble place, may be taking on the characteristics of a boxing ring. In tense on-air discussions this week, verbal sparring matches broke out among a host of financial commentators. The rhetorical pugilists disagreed on everything from gold to the virtues of institutional investing.
The heavyweight battle began on Thursday, as prominent gold investor Peter Schiff squared off against hedge fund manager Mark Dow.
Schiff—a relentless bear and a ferocious critic of U.S. monetary policy—called the recovery a “myth.” He sharply questioned the Fed‘s ability to unwind its balance sheet from five years of crisis-era bond buying while plugging the value of gold.
(Read more: Peter Schiff and Mark Dow do battle on gold)
Warning that an inflationary surge was on its way, Schiff added that a soft landing was little more than “a fantasy.”
Although Dow asserted that quantitative easing “does not lead to inflation automatically,” Schiff refused to give no quarter by saying official inflation data was “doctored.”
Dow, however, hit Schiff with an uppercut. “Reality disagrees, at least disagrees with you, and it has for five years,” Dow said. “People aren’t flocking to gold, they’re not selling Treasurys.”
The punching continued into the closing bell, as financial writer Jonathan Yates and CNBC contributor Herb Greenberg jabbed over the question of using home loans to invest in the stock market.
Yates began by defending the premise of an article that argued in favor of the controversial practice. He insisted that “the history of investing and the future of global growth” were supportive of his position.
Greenberg, however, pushed back hard. Using home equity to gamble on the stock market is “beyond ridiculous, it’s absurd.”
When it comes to home assets, “don’t use that equity … for speculation,” Greenberg said. “Not with the money in the home. We’ve learned that lesson” in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, he added. When Yates attempted to counter punch by invoking Warren Buffett, Greenberg landed a total knockout.
“Warren Buffett would never say: ‘borrow money on your home to buy stocks,'” saying it was only something a “sophisticated investor” with lots of disposable money would do.
Finally, Jim Cramer and private equity guru David Rubenstein engaged in a tense argument about private equity. Cramer dismissed the investment vehicle as “not as good as real equity,” adding that “you’re not allowed to say anything bad about private equity.”
For his part, Rubenstein went into a defensive crouch, saying PE creates value for investors and was “good for America.”
(Read more: Cramer slams PE firms, while Carlyle boss counters)
At least nobody bit anyone else’s ear off.
—By CNBC’s Javier E. David. Follow him on Twitter @TeflonGeek.