As said on this blog way back in April: I’m Adopting “Grey Pigeons”
Why? Because the concept of black swans is one of the most overwrought notions in recent financial memory. Now the Economist is getting in the act:
Gray Swans: Why Frugal Firms Keep Piling Up Cash – The Economist
Mind you, they’re seeing gray for slightly different reasons, but the logic remains: black swans are black swans for their rarity. For the market to have all sorts of little shocks, ebbs, flows, and unexpected events is status quo.
Back in April, I highlighted a phenomenon scrambling investors’ minds by the score: people were seeing so-called “black swans” everywhere:
Sorry, but Japan’s earthquake (devastating as it was in human terms), or the problems of the Middle East are not only NOT Black Swans, they’re not all that uncommon. I challenge someone—anyone—to find a year where some major geopolitical, geological, financial, or otherwise big scary event didn’t happen. The world is full of them through history—now is no different than any other, though folks always feel the present moment is “different this time”. Goodness gracious, 1998—a fabulous year for stocks—was also the year of Long Term Capital Management, among other things like the Russian Ruble problems and Asian banking issues.
As I said on Fisher Investments’ MarketMinder months ago, the whole point of a real black swan (if they exist at all) is that they’re hugely rare. Note that recent events did not crater the markets—they were grey pigeons.
To my mind, the issue of the US debt ceiling is archetypal Grey Pigeon drama—one that’s played itself out scores of times in US history, has never sunk global markets, yet folks fret about it often. Now we’re getting theories about Swans hopped up on some kind of hallucinogen to make them glow: Forget About Black Swans, the One Floating Ahead is Neon.
Scary as it might feel, today’s US debt ceiling drama is a classic, not a new thing. Grey Pigeons are flying again.