Friday, September 18, 2009

Forecasting is entertainment

Its hard to believe its September already. The weather is perfect, as it normally is in September in Marin, and the markets are ... is this possible ... calm! What a difference from a year ago.

I remember leaving an hour meeting last September and nervously checking the markets: The S&P500 had sunk over 10% during that hour. That's the way it was then. It looked and felt like the end of the world was arriving. Do you remember the forecasts back then - the Dow was going to drop below 3,000 and we were inevitably sliding into another great depression. Six months later the markets would hit bottom amid more talk of doom and gloom. (they've since risen about 35%)

For a while the pundits and forecasters seemed humbled. Virtually no-one had forecast the collapse and the few who had, had been calling for the end for so long, that they just came across as perennial pessimists rather than prescient thinkers. However times have changed. The pundits and forecasters are out again in full force making random and ever changing predictions about our financial future.

The best thing you can do is ignore them.

As Ben Stein explained in a funny article back in March, forecasters and pundits are entertainers - some very good at it - but still entertainers. In terms of making financial decisions, at best they are of no help, and at worst they are truly harmful.

Responsible financial decisions are based on sound, long term principles, not short term guesses.