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Predictions Are Marketing: I don't know what 2021 will bring

| December 09, 2020

I encourage the detail-oriented reader to go to the link just below first ....

It is not completely a mystery to me why some large and / or well-known organizations or individuals feel the need to make financial, economic or market forecasts. Forecasts / predictions are marketing. Entertainment, if you wish. Not to be used for meaningful financial purposes or decision-making. As one fellow financial person wrote, 

"we are critical of financial market commentary most of the time, for the rather uncontroversial reason that it is nearly always composed of an equal blend of five loathsome traits: backward-looking, narrative-conforming, book-talking, non-actionable and (most damning of all) boring." ... Source: Epsilon Theory

It is also the case that NOT everything is a forecast:  Specifically, I love this and I think it is very much NOT trivial:

"By comparison, when my dog Max makes a leap in midair to catch a Frisbee, he isn’t making a prediction. Rather, he has calculated the necessary steps needed to be in the right position to intercept a flying disc. The canine took a variety of data inputs — the location and motion of the toy, his own relative position and his ability to cover distance at a given speed. Max can run those calculations in his head instantly, and catch the Frisbee."


In Next Year Foretold, Jonathan Clements mentions (forecasts? - yikes!) 7 stories or themes that we might see in financial stories in 2021. No, these are not market forecasts. Or predictions in the sense I'm describing. Just concepts. Will we see any of these in 2021. Maybe. Maybe not. Have we seen these ideas before? Yes. Will we see them again. Yes, I believe we will.

As a non-trivial FYI, I am a mostly former reader of the Wall Street Journal. I began working in financial services in 1989. Jonathan Clements, according to his bio, was Personal Finance columnist at Wall Street Journal starting in 1994. I can't say I read his column diligently, but I definitely read it at times. And I actually don't remember seeing anything I strongly disagreed with. Which for me is unusual. Many of us financial practitioners can have our differences with financial journalists. It also happens to be the case that "pure" financial journalists might only be covered by The First Amendment protecting freedom of the press, as well as perhaps whatever restrictions their own publications might have. Financial practitioners have to live with our sometimes multiple regulatory bodies that certainly restrict us more than The First Amendment. Jonathan turns out to be a bit more unusual because - I did not know this until I read his "about," he is what I will call a "hybrid."  He has been a working journalist and arguably professional writer for a good many years. But he also moved over into Financial Services and still works today. Welcome!

But I digress. Barry also mentioned his opinion that forecasts are "counter-productive." That word itself is, of course a euphemism for "hurtful" or "damaging." There are of course some press limitations, i.e. libel. I personally have never heard of an investor actually winning damages from an inaccurate forecast. I suppose it could have happened. And - another topic - sometimes settlements are made under a condition of confidentiality.

As Barry also pointed out, euphemisms are

"a softening of subjective reality that allows us to happily live in deluded denial. This isn’t a great strategy for relationships, for careers and, especially, for investors."

So, like forecasts, euphemisms turn out to be "counter-productive." Not helpful. Maybe damaging. Please stay tuned. My own prediction (hah!) is that you might - probably will - see plenty of euphemisms in financial as well as other kinds of news. And plenty of predictions. Reader be warned and my own hope for 2021 - in addition for a quick and successful end to Pandemic - would be that you make some progress on your own financial (and non-financial) goals.

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