CON-fidence is for CON-Men

(Interloper) “Mr. Achuthan has been arguably the most accurate economic forecaster over the past five years and perhaps more importantly, is apparently using new analytical techniques and indicators – his emphasis on short and long-leading economic indicators is an excellent example. As he noted this morning, he was virtually alone among prominent economists in predicting a slowdown for the latter half of 2011, even if his predicted official recession has yet to become evident.”

” .. Achuthan presented his view that despite recent stronger data a US recession was still on tap, followed by Steve Liesman (fairly) asking ‘What about recent stronger GDP and consumer spending data’, followed by Achuthan saying that it didn’t matter because there is contagion in the data whereby more indicators were turning negative, followed by Liesman asking (again fairly) ‘like what’, and Achuthan responding something like ‘it doesn’t matter what, it matters how many‘. .. Liesman continued to badger his guest with ‘what do investors do today?’ ”

“.. Achuthan, in other words, is telling investors you something you will not hear from any employee of a brokerage or investment bank (well, maybe SocGen): wait.”

“.. My real issue is with those who will complain, ‘Why would I listen to that guy? He can’t even tell me which indicator he’s basing his conclusion on’. These people want THE ANSWER, stated bluntly, with conviction. To these people I respond; there is nothing you should be more afraid of than a market pundit who is certain.”

Certainty is a tremendous marketing tool but there is a reason that the ‘con‘ in con man is short for confidence. Remember that it would only take one highly-leveraged trade to make someone wealthy enough to never work again. This implies that if the ‘certain’ dude (and its 99% of the time a dude) was really 100% sure, they would be leveraged 200-1 on the trade and, if it were successful, you’d never see them again outside of Saint Tropez-situated photos in celebrity magazines. In truth they are not sure – it’s a marketing gimmick to attract your investment dollars.”

We are naturally attracted to certainty and we want to believe that someone has the answer because psychologically the random nature of markets is repellent. But in the end it is most often a trap and all investors should remember what a portfolio manager once told me: ‘People don’t like to hear it but we are in the probability game, not the certainty game.’ ”

Full Story: Liesman vs Achuthan and why investors should be terrified of certainty (Interloper)


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