Why it’s NOT Different This Time
“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
- Edmund Burke – British Statesman and Philosopher (1729-1797)
I wasn’t a history major in college, but I’ve learned two things by studying history books: 1) The unchanging psyche of human nature leads history consistently to repeats itself; and 2) There is never a shortage of goofballs willing to make zany predictions.
Robert Zuccaro is no exception to lesson number two, as evidenced by his 2001 book, Why it’s Different this Time…Dow 30,000 by 2008! Sticking one’s neck out is never too difficult when you have a multi-decade trend behind your back – I guess Dow “14,000” just didn’t sound sexy enough back then. Unfortunately the herd reacting to these bold, extreme predictions eventually realize (usually post-mortem) that they are quickly approaching a tail-end of a cycle. The cab driver, hair dresser, and mechanic realized the dangers of following the “New Economy” cheerleaders in 1999 when everyone was piling into dot-com stocks (see Bubblicious technology table ).
Dow 1,000 Here We Come!
Today, the Zuccaros of the world have been washed to the curb, and new “Armageddon” extremists have sprouted up to the surface, like perma-bear Peter Schiff and his call for Dow 2,000 or his $5,000 per ounce gold estimate. More recently, Robert Prechter has one-upped Schiff by forecasting Dow 1,000 with the assistance of the not-so ironclad Elliott Wave Theory philosophy (see Technical Analysis: Astrology or Lob Wedge). If you’re in the Prechter camp, either crawl back into your bunker or start digging that dream cave you always wanted.
“Hey, Look Here at My Crazy Forecast!”
Publicity doesn’t necessarily rain praise on those parroting the consensus view (although the warmth of job security is appreciated), but rather the extreme outliers love to bask in the glow of media attention. The extremists consistently repeat “why it’s different this time.” What is different is the set of circumstances, but what history shows us over and over again is the emotions of fear and greed feeding the bubbles of excess are exactly the same. Whether you’re talking about the Tulip-Mania of the 1630s, the Nifty Fifty stocks of 1973-1974, the technology Four Horsemen of the mid-1990s, or the Icelandic Banks of 2008, what we learn from the lessons of history is that human nature will never change and fear and greed will continue creating and bursting future bubbles.
People playing the game long enough understand, “It’s NOT different this time.” Not only have we endured repeated wars, recessions, banking crises, currency crises, but we have also survived every exotic animal disease known to man, including Mad Cow, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, West Nile, etc.
Robert Zuccaro and Robert Prechter may get an “A” for their attention grabbing forecasts, but thus far the grade earned on accuracy is closer to an “F.” More specifically, Zuccaro’s prediction never came close to 30,000 by the end of 2008 (only off by about 21,000 points), and guess what, Bob Prechter has a long way to go before reaching his Dow 1,000 target. So here is my proposition: Why don’t we just split the difference between Zuccaro’s 2008 and Prechter’s 2016 forecasts and take the average? If it turns out they are equally bad forecasters, then Dow 15,500 by 2012 should be no problem ([30,000 + 1,000] ÷ 2)!
Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this market (double-dip or sustained recovery), what I do know is there will continue to be wacky outlandish forecasters rationalizing why a trend will go on for infinity and why “this time is different.” In reality these attention mongers will always be around ensuring this time (or next time) will never be different…just the same fear and greed as always.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
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