Stock market narratives

The invention of narratives to explain why there are more total sellers than buyers in particular stock indices can seem to me like an act as creative and fanciful as astrology or reading meaning from sheep entrails.

Maybe “the stock market” is down because people are starting to realize the holidays will be a bummer, or the election picture feels less clear than it did a week ago, or weather has turned in gloomy ways, or the elections in Chile and Bolivia indicate the left is on the march and the right is in retreat, or it’s foggy in New York City today, or instability in general is in the air when the President storms out of his 60 Minutes interview and the other guy is hardly at the top of his game.

Or just because October is spooky, to markets and in general.

Maybe it’s down because it’s been overinflated for a long time, and it doesn’t take much to make it turn. The market is a herd. Herds can turn on a sudden startle, on almost nothing, as Larry McMurtry tells us:

Long ago, when I was a young cowboy, I witnessed a herd reaction in a real herd – about one hundred cattle that some cowboys and I were moving from one pasture to another along a small asphalt farm-to-market road.  It was mid-afternoon in mid-summer.  Men, horses, and cattle were all drowsy, the herd just barely plodding along, until one cow happened to drag her hoof on the rough asphalt, making a loud rasping sound.  In an instant that sleepy herd was in full flight, and our horses too.  A single sound on a summer afternoon produced a short but violent stampede.  The cattle and horses ran full-out for perhaps one hundred yards.  It was the only stampede I was ever in, and a dragging hoof caused it.

Maybe the vibe is just off.

I’m not saying this headline is wrong, just that it might be. Words like “on” or “amidst” can be made to do more work than they ought to. The idea stock market study or business analysis is a hard science is silly. There’s absolutely room to consider the role of unquantifiable vibes. You might as fairly say Stocks Fall On Gloomy Animal Spirits.

Further, the human need to put a story on events is unstoppable. Narrative investing is kind of becoming a thing, but I still feel there’s a flawed sense that you can make a science of it.

intense sunset I saw



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