Nate Silver and the Problem of Prediction

Check out my new piece on “Nate Silver and the Problem of Prediction” over at the Observer:

Wall Street always overflows with Holy Grails—those predictions, strategies, secret formulas, and genius interpretations that promise otherworldly knowledge and riches if you just trust. They are most often delivered in the investment world through a black box—a closed system where the inputs and outputs are known, but the internal analytical workings are left top secret, only for the high priests’ consumption. Black box positioning goes far beyond markets, however. It is not surprising in a modern, interconnected age that when you take a very smart guy, rows of computers, proprietary formulas, and code that only the one smart guy can see, and then add a string of successful forecasts, boom—you end up with a nerdy, made-for-social-media superstar who suddenly makes prediction cool for the proletariat.

Nate Silver is that guy. Consider… [Read whole article]

Nate Silver
Nate Silver

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise: Prediction Doesn’t Work

Excerpt:

“This has basically never happened before in my whole life. I can remember 1½ percent rates. It certainly surprised all the economists. It surprised the people who created the life insurance industry in Japan, who basically all went broke because they guaranteed to pay a 3% interest rate. I think everybody’s been surprised by it, including all the people who are in the economics profession who kind of pretend they knew it all along. But I think practically everybody was flabbergasted. I was flabbergasted when they went low; when they went negative in Europe – I’m really flabbergasted. How many in this room would have predicted negative interest rates in Europe? Raise your hands. [No hands go up]. That’s exactly the way I feel. How can I be an expert in something I never even thought about that seems so unlikely. It’s new territory…

“I think something so strange and so important is likely to have consequences. I think it’s highly likely that the people who confidently think they know the consequences – none of whom predicted this – now they know what’s going to happen next? Again, the witch doctors. You ask me what’s going to happen? Hell, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I regard it all as very weird. If interest rates go to zero and all the governments in the world print money like crazy and prices go down – of course I’m confused. Anybody who is intelligent who is not confused doesn’t understand the situation very well. If you find it puzzling, your brain is working correctly.”

Shout out to Charles Munger, age 91, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

Brexit Hysteria Might Be Contagious

Feedback in:

Good morning from the U.S.,

I wonder how many fundamental analysts could have “predicted” the market’s reaction to the Brexit news. It amazes me how many people still believe these “experts” on TV know what they are talking about. Hopefully some day people will learn that trend following is the only way to prepare for these 100-year floods that seem to happen quite often. Thank you for your podcasts and continuing to educate those who are looking for the right way to trade.

“Ride the bucking bronco.” – Bill Dunn

Michael D. Jr.

Thanks!

Let me add some relevant feedback from Sunrise Capital:

At a philosophical level, it is important to understand that while Brexit is in some respects novel and shocking (no country has ever left the European Union and many polls suggested that Britain would stay), from a broader perspective, Brexit is no different than any of the many exogenous geopolitical events that have periodically disrupted markets over the course of our 37 year investment history. As we see it, Brexit is simply another example of an “unexpected” event happening and investors overreacting to that event in such a way that it causes a great deal of immediate market turmoil.

The financial pain caused by this turmoil is real, it is not enjoyable and it is generally not good for the global financial system or people’s faith in that system, particularly in the short term. However over the long haul, as history has proven over and over again through world wars, revolutions, and numerous other types of global disruptions, markets are resilient and ultimately right themselves to some kind of equilibrium level. Accordingly, our approach to Brexit has been quite similar to the approach we’ve taken to numerous other global shocks and that is to plan, prepare and then “keep calm and carry on” as the British would say.

Wisdom.

Contagious?
Contagious?

Financial Predictions v. Weather Predictions

Cuter than CFAs
Cuter than CFAs

Feedback in:

Michael, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your work. I have read most of your books and they are exactly what I needed. You see I am a veteran of the brokerage business (30 Years) and I have always known intuitively that something about the entire business was, and is, a lie. Analysts have no skin in the game, management doesn’t care if you make money, it’s all about assets under management that’s why they will never say sell. “Just buy more.” You see I used to look at CFA’s as the smartest people in the room. Now I know that they are really just financial weathermen trying to predict the future. Something that can’t be done. I have adopted for my clients a simple trend following rules based strategy, and it amazes me how hard it is to change minds. It is so simple they somehow think it can’t work. But I will keep plugging away and I know you will to. The business needs to change even the other brokers in my office look at me like a freak when I tell them to stop listening to analyst’s and “stop buying stocks that are going down.” Old habits die very, very hard. Just wanted to say thanks.

Thanks!

Looks like this feedback was inspired by my recent interview here.

Ep. 424: The Wizard Jeremy Siegel Filleted on Trend Following Radio

Jeremy Siegel
Jeremy Siegel

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Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel profiles Jeremy Siegel. Jeremy describes himself as “The Wizard of Wharton.” His website claims that he is credited with contributing and expanding the great bull market of the last two decades. Jeremy is also bestselling author of “Stocks for the Long Run.”

Michael moves right into playing a few clips from appearances Jeremy has made on CNBC. The first clip has Jeremy outlining his predictions in early November 2015: The Dow will surpass 20,000, oil can’t go much lower, and the dollar can’t go much higher. His predictions are perfect examples of predictions without any substance. They have no timelines, or data to backup why he feels the way he does.

Excerpt #2 was filmed around December 13th. The Dow at that time was at 17,300. The S&P was at 2020. Jeremy moves right into more predictions and generalizations. He doesn’t say “buy at this time” and “sell at this time.” Jeremy proceeds to use words like “tremor” and “relief rally.” It is hard to have wrong predictions and forecasts when you use words that have generalized meaning.

Excerpt #3 is from February 8th, 2016. Jeremy had to back peddle because his November and December forecasts had not come to fruition. He admits to being too bullish…sort of. He blames his wrong predictions on the market not doing what the market was suppose to do. Michael weaves in his commentary throughout the clips. The podcast ends with one of Michael’s favorite classic songs from the 1920’s.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Predictions
  • CNBC Analysts
  • What is a bull and bear market?

“Jeremy Siegel is one of the great ones. [His article at the market top was] one of the most stark and prescient calls I have ever seen.” – Jim Cramer

Mentions & Resources:

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Trading Food For Thought: January 13th Edition

Interesting reads:

Enjoy.

Dilbert
Dilbert