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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hark what discord follows

David Galland rehearses the argument for gold. He points out that, relative to stocks, the gold market is so small that a small shift into it from stocks would massively inflate demand. Against that is the fact that it hasn't happened yet, and that a small market can also be manipulated downwards by suppliers, particularly the central banks. Besides, in a real panic, Joe Average isn't looking to make a killing in commodities, he's trying to pay bills in cash and buy food and fuel ditto. Nice area for speculators with quick reflexes, though.

What is inflation, anyway? Ronald Cooke looks at the damned lies and self-serving statistics that underpin the official Consumer Price Index.

Jim Patterson reads the stockmarket runes and concludes:

Sub-Prime issues have been discounted. With overall market returns compressed the downside is limited. We expect a better market in the weeks and months ahead.

In his slightly starchy prose, The Contrarian Investor agrees with Patterson, up to a point, but also gives a serious warning:

1. In today’s market, the probability of the market going up is higher than the probability of it coming down. Hence, it is rightly called a bull market.

2. But should it come down (which is unlikely), it can collapse at extremely great speed and magnitude.

Hence, the stronger and longer this uptrend continues, the greater in magnitude and speed (as in volatility, not timing) the Great Crash III will be. Hence, the coming Great Crash III is a Black Swan event—an improbable but colossal impact event.

The importance of a particular event is the likelihood of it multiplied by its consequences. Black Swan events are events that are (1) highly unlikely and (2) colossal impact/consequences. One common mistake investors (and many professionals) make is to look at the former and forget about the latter i.e. ignore highly unlikely but impactful events.

Therefore, when contrarians are preparing for a crash, it does not necessary mean that they are predicting doom and gloom. Rather, they see the vulnerability of Black Swans and prepare for them.

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