Bears Turn To Bulls In The Space of A Month

Readers of this blog had bit of a chuckle prior to Christmas with our 10 stockmarket predictions for 2012. Nothing is as funny as the real thing though.

Under the heading Global Strategists Are Abandoning Bearish Views, Bloomberg last night documented the year’s first about face:

Strategists at the biggest banks are capitulating on their bearish forecasts after the best start to a year for global stocks since 1994 and gains of more than 7 percent in emerging-market currencies.

Just two weeks after saying that investors should “remain cautious,” Larry Hatheway, the chief economist at UBS AG, raised his recommendations on global shares and high-yield bonds in a Jan. 23 note to customers entitled, “Wrong, but not too late.” Royal Bank of Scotland and Benoit Anne, the global head of emerging-markets strategy at Societe Generale SA, said their estimates for developing nations were proven wrong.

The MSCI All-Country World Index climbed 5.7 percent in January, surprising strategists at Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Inc. and Barclays who had forecast first-half losses because of Europe’s debt crisis. 

The Bank of America analyst explained where everyone went wrong. ‘In hindsight, everybody was so beared up at the end of last year, there was nowhere for the market to go but up’.

Of course! Our obsession with predicting the future is farcical. It can also be very detrimental. A very wealthy close friend of mine called me in a small panic prior to Christmas. He’s a Eureka Report subscriber and Alan Kohler’s final Weekend Briefing for last year told him that the ‘risk of another major panic sell-off on the market’ was so high that my friend ‘must take action’. Kohler himself was planning on significantly reducing his ‘already reduced exposure to equities, possibly to zero’.

I told my friend that I had no idea whether there was going to be another panic sell-off or not, but that the risks Kohler was so worried about (Europe, US, China etc) were consensus views and all over the front pages of the paper. Generally, that means they are already factored into share prices.

Yesterday I tweeted a link to great Time article on the importance of deliberate practice. Practice itself is not enough, the article says, you need to practice the right things. For us, that means reading and learning the things that are going to make us better investors, not wasting our time on futile market forecasts.

There could be another panic sell-off tomorrow, next week or the week after. No one knows. If they did, it would already have happened today.

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