Saturday, 7 March 2015

Markets Will Be Markets

The stock market is bipolar creature, driven by sentiment and irrational expectations. One day, it is an ingenious forward-looking mechanism that anticipates and discounts future events beautifully. Another day, it is a stubborn schizophrenic that can’t see further than its nose.
Markets constantly overreact to both, identified risks and opportunities. It is in the nature of financial markets to exaggerate, to magnify. This is why they are not always discounting the future. Sometimes, they are correcting previously incorrect view. Sometimes, they just go bonkers and send prices to levels that cannot possibly be justified by any future scenario. Boys will be boys. Markets will be markets. They’ll fluctuate violently, up and down and to levels that will seem incomprehensible to many. Indexing, robo-advising and social media won’t change that. The Internet might have made people smarter; but it hasn’t made financial markets more efficient. You could complain and whine about financial markets’ irrationality or you could find a way to take advantage of it. Or don’t. It’s your choice.
If you understand people’s incentives, you are very likely to predict correctly their future behavior and sometimes even influence it. Most incentives have expiration date. What is important today, might not be as important tomorrow. This applies perfectly to life, but not always in financial markets that live in their own world. Incentives require the existence of rationality. We have already made the point that more often than not, markets are not rational, but emotional, at least in a short-term perspective. As Howard Marks eloquently puts it:
Psychological and technical factors can swamp fundamentals. In the long run, value creation and destruction are driven by fundamentals such as economic trends, companies’ earnings, demand for products and the skillfulness of managements. But in the short run, markets are highly responsive to investor psychology and the technical factors that influence the supply and demand for assets. In fact, I think confidence matters more than anything else in the short run. Anything can happen in this regard, with results that are both unpredictable and irrational.

Quote for the day

“Good traders know that opportunistic speculation is a process. Ignore any one single outcome, focus on the methodology that can consistently avoid catastrophic losses, manage risk, preserve capital. A good process can be replicated, a random spin of the wheel cannot.” -  Barry Ritholtz