It’s quite a world we live in. The (satirical newspaper) The Onion earlier this week proffered investing advice as good as anything I’ve seen on any financial news source this year: Report: Only .00003% Of Things That Happen Actually Matter.
This is so true for investing it’s almost (ahem) a joke. People fret over so much nonsense and minutiae each day in the market. For long-term investors trying to build wealth over time, the simple reality is at least 99.99% of what gets reported out there is mere noise or beside the point. And in the focusing on noise, it’s easy for folks to simply overlook what matters: stocks up nicely this year as earnings increase, in the context of what’s been a strong and long bull market, seeing new all-time highs in many spots.
Always and everywhere with financial and economic news, ask yourself if what you’re reading really matters.
Legendary investor Sir John Templeton has a famous quote that still rings true:
“Bull markets are born in pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die of euphoria.”
I have a new wrinkle. For today’s hyper-media-inundate-you-with-data-all-day-every-day era, somewhere between skepticism and optimism comes fatigue. And it’s bullish.
Stories have recently asked why CNBC’s ratings have tanked. In my view, you watch CNBC for two reasons:
1. You’re terrified of seeing what bad thing will happen to your investments next, but you can’t look away. Like a train wreck. (Hello, Financial crisis and Eurozone meltdown.)
2. You’re euphoric, and want to see how much your account will rise today. (Hello, tech boom, housing boom, etc.)
Investors aren’t any of these things right now. I think they’re just…fatigued. Fatigued of Middle East fears, Fed QE fears, of US debt/deficit fears, of Eurozone ills, of all of it. These things have been around for years now, and have lost much of their bluster power. Many aren’t so bullish, they’re just tired of spending so much energy worrying.
In my opinion, fatigue in this environment is bullish. It means there’s plenty of room for markets to rise and most still haven’t appreciated record earnings, and other meaningful positives out there.
…the world gets a cold.
I’ve read some version of this notion off and on in the financial media for the last week. Which reminds me of decades past where folks would speculate that if the US didn’t do well economically then the rest of the world wouldn’t either. We seem to be getting a new version of that with China now.
Don’t let it fool you. China continues to contribute nicely to global growth and that’ll help prop equity prices. From MarketMinder this week:
“…slower growth” is something of a misnomer. Yes, if China hits the full-year target, in percentage terms, growth will be slower than 2012’s 7.8%. But in dollar terms, it will accelerate—a $339 billion increase, compared with 2012’s $327 billion rise. Should China match the target for the next few years, the dollar-based gains get bigger and bigger—and higher than the dollar gains seen when the growth rate exceeded 10%. The slower growth rate isn’t a sign of weakness. It just means China’s growing off a much bigger base. In fact, China could miss the target and still add significant value to the global economy and be a key source of revenue for developed-world companies—what ultimately matters for stocks.” – Cracks in the China?
If you’re like me, you get annoyed ubiquitously by the clichéd, overused, nonsense, nondescript lingo central bankers, central planners, politicians, and guru economists routinely employ. My current most peevish is “downside risk.” As in, “Currently downside risks for the economy are stronger than a month ago.” Or, “We see downside risk abating in the intermediate term.”
What does this mean? It means nothing. It’s gibberish. In the era where central bankers claim to be more open kimono, what they really are doing is just saying more words. The opacity is the same, as depicted by the current—and bizarre—speculation over “tapering” clogging today’s financial headlines.
When you see this stuff, don’t try to read tea leaves. Just ignore it until there is something concrete to form an opinion.
The next time an investing guru presents you with ironclad statistical results, remember this article:
Unreliable neuroscience? Why power matters – Suzi Gage
In a paper published today in Nature Reviews Neuroscience we reviewed the power of studies in the neuroscience literature, and found that, on average, it is very low – around 20%. Low power undermines the reliability of neuroscience research in several important ways.
I admit—freely—often my biggest hang-up with Ms. Rand was that she’s too pure, too idealistic, advocating a worldview not possible in this world. Charles Johnson’s recent IBD piece puts such anxiety to rest.
“My personal life is a postscript to my novels,” she wrote in the afterword to “Atlas Shrugged.” “It consists of the sentence: ‘And I mean it.’ I have always lived by the philosophy I present in my books — and it has worked for me, as it works for my characters.”
As with so much of her work, Deirdre McCloskey has penned a biting and powerful critique of today’s economic study of “happiness”.
This stuff is worth being aware of because it’s popping up in political discourse regularly. In particular, note the creeping paternalism lately becoming a full infestation in behavioral economics.
Just about everywhere I go, I meet investors who tell me so-called core inflation is a dumb metric and food inflation is very high. Check out this recent graphic from Bloomberg Businessweek by Dorothy Gambrell.
“In 1984, the average U.S. household spent 16.8 percent of its annual post-tax income on food. By 2011, Americans spent only 11.2 percent. The U.S. devotes less of its income to food than any other country—half as much as households in France and one-fourth of those in India.”
In the words of Stan Lee, ‘nuff said.
Markets adapt, and long-term profits approach zero for high-speed trading. The winners are market participants, who benefit from higher liquidity and smaller bid/ask spreads. The part most folks miss about the flash crash is the market self-corrected as fast as it sank.
Regulator, Go Slow on Reining in High-Speed Trading: Algorithm-driven trading appears to be self-correcting. That’s good—the hyper-fast world needs it.
I don’t always agree with Jim Cramer, but here is some good sense that’s been espoused on this page for some time now:
You know what didn’t work in 2012? Risk on, risk off. As hard as I tried to stamp out this ridiculous bit of hedge-fund-ese, I was not able to. There are too many commentators out there, and too many traders who want to succumb to this kind of non-rigorous, intellectually lazy thinking, and it’s impossible to shut them all down. But let 2012 be a lesson to you: It was revealed that you would have underperformed these people if you’d followed them. Notice I say “underperformed,” because one thing is for certain — none of these blowhards will let you see their returns after what I bet was a fiasco year for what I can only call an “alleged” strategy.
Let this be the death of risk on, risk off – Jim Cramer