Think For Yourself: Numbers Don’t Lie, Liars Do.

KINGSTON, NY, 7 October 2015—It is official. Global equity markets had their worst quarterly showing since 2011.

Is history repeating itself?

Go back to 2007, in the months leading up to the Panic of ’08. On 24 July the Dow took a 226-point dive. Blaming the market fall on weak corporate profits, “experts” shrugged off the sudden decline, because “the market needs some profit taking after hitting 14,000.”

With trillions being lost worldwide, The New York Times ran the headline, “Advisers Tell Worried Investors to Take Stock ‘Hiccup’ in Stride.” The tale began with the opening lines: “Take a deep breath. These things happen (NYT, 27 July 2007)”.

Déjà vu all over again

In late August 2015, with benchmark indexes down 10 percent from recent peaks, the headline on the front page of the Times’ Business section blared, “This Week’s Market Sell-Off May Not Be Such a Bad Thing.” The article advised investors experiencing big losses to step back just a bit, what has happened in financial markets this week looks less like a catastrophe in the making and more like a much-needed breather.” And “the best response for most investors … is to take a deep breath.”

On the same day the Times peddled more hot air with another headline article, “Advice After Stock Market Drop: Take Some Deep Breaths, and Don’t Do a Thing.”

Deep Breaths For Sale

Over the past few weeks, as equity markets worldwide were being battered, all economic eyes were focused on last Friday’s US Labor Department September jobs report. The great expectation was for an increase of 201,000 new jobs, but only 142,000 were created.

On the terribly disappointing news, equity markets spiked with the hope that the Federal Reserve, which had announced in mid-September it would maintain its Zero Interest Rate Policy (in place since 2008), would continue its cheap money policy into 2016. 

Following the disappointing jobs report, the New York Times, under the headline, “What the Terrible September Jobs Report Means for the Economy,” wrote, “As always, it is a useful exercise on jobs report Fridays to take a deep breath and remember that this is but one set of indicators, with a large margin of statistical error, that will be revised repeatedly.”

Indeed, the numbers were revised. The word on the Street was that August’s’ disappointing job numbers, which had come in at 173,000, were expected to be adjusted upward. Instead, they were revised down to 136,000, a loss of 37,000 jobs. And July’s numbers were revised downward by 22,000 jobs.

Trend Tracking Tip: In May 2007, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said he didn’t believe mortgage defaults would seriously harm the economy. In his new book he admits the Fed underestimated the dangers leading up to the Panic of ’08. But his and the Fed’s attitude was, and still is, that they know what’s best for us and how dare anyone question their expertise.

The moral of this Trend Alert: “Take a deep breath” … think for yourself!