Monday, October 24, 2005

Predicting Stock Markets

Stock Market Predictions are the Key to Successful Investing
One of the greatest popular myths about investing in stocks is that in order to be successful, you must be able to predict the stock market's movements. Why do people assume this? For some, it is because they do not understand that stocks give a positive and substantial return over time - they falsely assume that stocks bounce around in the same range forever, and they therefore conclude they must predict movements in order to be able to sell at the top of the range and buy at the bottom of the range. For others, the desire to predict is borne out of human nature, which puts a premium on certainty. We love to know what will happen in advance. Hence, it is usually assumed by the beginning investor that to be successful, one must first become an expert at forecasting future market trends. Experienced investors know, in fact, that nothing could be further from the truth.
Some icons of Wall Street love to advance the cause of market predicting, because they are paid to predict these movements. Others simply humor their clients who are looking for market projections because they know that it is easier to give them a projection than to try to correct the clients' thinking. For instance, nearly every retail brokerage firm has a chief economist or market strategist whose main responsibility is to predict the climate for stocks. A large number of books, advisory services, and such that are sold focus themselves almost exclusively on prediction of how the stock market in general will perform in the future. But in truth, the best way to make money in the stock market is to avoid approaches that rely on market predictions. This will most likely seem an odd or even a absurd statement to some, perhaps most. Yet, any serious review of the results of market gurus over a long period of time reveals a track record that is no better (usually worse than) a simple buy-and-hold strategy.
Don't misunderstand me: There is no doubt that if a person could accurately predict the short-term fluctuations of the stock market, that person could far exceed the return of someone who simply bought a basket of stocks and sat on them. However, the one fatal problem with this is that there has never been a single person who has figured out how to do it. Nearly all market advisors claim to be able to call the market's every turn, but in fact every credible study ever done on the subject has proven that these claims are invariably false. By far, most market prognosticators significantly underperform the market, despite their universal claims to the contrary. Given the large number of market gurus that now exist, the laws of statistics dictate that some of them must beat the market, out of pure luck if nothing else. However, they lack the ability to repeat this performance from one time period to another, and the group of market beaters will usually be a different group every time period that is sampled. If you could predict which guru would be right for the next year, you would be in good shape. But, of course, it's just as hard to predict which guru (or which dart board) will be right for the coming year as it is to accurately predict market conditions. Finally, even if we are generous and assume that there is some market forecaster out there who has the holy grail of market prediction, our chances of being able to sort him out from those who simply got lucky are pretty slim.
As of this writing, the market prognosticators who are most successful over the past ten to fifteen years are those who have been perpetually bullish. Although we all get bearish once in a while, we do best when we keep our bearish feelings from affecting our actions. Therefore, I recommend that you feel free to have your opinions about where the market is heading, but always invest as though the market is going higher. Over the long run, you will be better off than if you had jumped in and out of the market. Of course, you have to exercise some caution in having an optimistic viewpoint; the best policy is to only invest money that you can afford to be patient with if the market stalls or backtracks. If you take out a huge mortgage on your home with the expectation of investing it for a quick payoff, you are tempting fate and your emotions of fear will almost certainly cause you to fail.
If results are any indication, the conclusion must be that market forecasting is prone to failure. One of the purposes of this book is to free you from the compulsion we all seem to have to predict future market trends.
An alternative mindset to the prediction game
If we are not going to spend our energies wondering where the market is going, then how can we succeed in the stock market?
The key is to develop a method which will react to events as they occur, and will ensure that our returns are as good or better than the returns on the general market, whatever those market returns may be in the future. We can essentially ignore what "the market" is doing - or especially what it is forecasted to do in the future. We own our particular set of stocks, not "the market." What we really need is a method which concentrates on how our stocks are actually doing, as opposed to how they will do in the future. We own our portfolio of stocks. The Reverse Scale Strategy is such a method and will be developed later in this book once its theoretical underpinnings are explained.
If you just can't help yourself...
As most investors eventually learn, market prognosticators are notoriously inaccurate. If you already know the futility of market forecasting but feel that you simply must predict the market, I will reveal at this time how you can be as good as the best market gurus in predicting the market: When you get up each and every morning for the rest of your life, make this astonishing prediction: "The market will be up today." If you make that your prediction every single day you will be as accurate as some of the best people in the field of economics, having achieved a long-run accuracy of about 60%. Despite people's fears of bear markets, the market spends most of its time advancing, not declining.
In the long run, a good investment strategy that doesn't rely on prediction will beat a market forecasting strategy.


Blogger SiD said...

so let me get this straight! there's no way to predict what's going to happen.
agreed the market is a very sentiment driven place, but what if somehow we're (or someone) is able to affect the sentiments of the people? what happens then?
also we can predict things like the price of onions going up and thrus make a "guess" that the market's going to be going up/down.
now if only i had a crystal ball. i'd predict that the market will go up today :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 1:51:00 AM  

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