Wednesday, May 26, 2010

predictability of market volatility

Financial markets in the recent times have foxed the pundits. Volatility is a given, and predictabilty is zero, leaving one to wonder if there is such a thing as a financial pundit. There are so many variables ranging from Icelandic ash to Greek tragedies to senate hearings, to UK elections to the Yuan valuation theories, to almost any financial and non financial behaviour of market players that effect markets all over the world, that it is naive to believe that anybody can predict the future price of an individual security or market.
I read almost all the financial dailies and am a CNBC addict and the confidence with which analysts are making buy, sell or hold recommendations amazes me. I suppose it is easier to make these recommendations with other peoples money and with no responsibility. or skin in the game.
To make matters worse we all suffer from selective memories when it comes to evaluating portfolio performance. The losses that we avoided by not following advice are ignored and the gains and losses arising out of following the same are overweighted.
It seems obvious to me that for for every gain made someone somewhere has to have lost and the overall stock market or bond market is a zero sum game. In fact if you take out the transaction costs charged by he exchange and the intermediaries , the markets are a negative sum game, whether you are long or short over a long period of time.
The only thing certain is the current price. How that price will behave in the future, how much it will change up or down and by how much are pretty much a matter of chance, and nobody has privileged information on that, much as they pretend to fool you with jargon, quantum theory, string theory or random theory. Fact is your maid or driver or your teenaged daughter can make as good a prediction and there is a good chance that they will be right 50% of the time, which is better track record than the so called professional view.
Some of my friends consider me a financial genius and often ask me for stock market tips. The only advice I can give them with confidence is to buy low and sell high. That invariably works.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Greek tragedy

First it was Iceland. It got financially ruined by investing in toxic waste assets generated by Wall Street. It ended up kicking ash, which disrupted flights across the European skies.

And now a Greek tragedy plays itself out creating ripples across the global financial markets. From a peaceful holiday destination and home to some of the worlds wealthiest, to a financial basket case did not take too long. Did they buy something toxic like the others, or did sell themselves short, or did some other genius from Goldman Sachs custom make the Greek recipe for disaster.

Italy Spain and Ireland may soon follow. And then the entire Eurozone is fair game for short sellers. Regardless of what the learned Pranab Mukherjee tells us, it would be naive to believe that India is insulated. We now swim or drown with the global tides, and as Mr. Buffet says, you can only see who is naked when the tide is low. And the global financial tide is getting alarmingly low.

Asset prices in India, across classes, whether it is real estate, gold or stock prices are all over priced and heavily dependant on foreign capital flows. Global money managers are becoming increasingly risk averse, and will also be under pressure to book profits in the few markets where they are in fact making money, India, unfortunately being one of them.

Duetche Bank is maintaining a price target of 22000 for the Indian market. Are they smoking he stuff that has been recently legalised in California and Colarado? Or are they planning to sell before the tide that is sure to wash up here?

It is better to be a spectator to the Greek tragedy, than have a lead role in the Indian financial tragedy that is buiding up.