Points of Few – The Light at the Top of the Well

“It is not wise for a mortal man to gaze too long into the darkness. He comes to see strange shapes and cold imaginings. He comes to doubt all that he once held true.” – Catherine Fisher, The Speed of Darkness

By Alan Steel

It seems to me that there’s a big financial world out there that’s just bursting with assumptions, eh?

Strange that. 

You’d think a process essentially governed by maths and how they’re engineered would be less prone to fantastical imaginations, marketing prose and correlations of the strangest (and often stupidest) kinds.

Think about it; in the myriad multi-millions of daily market transactions, involving billions of human influences, and all of this wrapped up in varying degrees of debt, equity, currency, bonds, Wall Street & City subterfuge, and geopolitical angst, somehow a smiling financial commentator dripping with camera-ready sincerity can each morning tell us with absolute certainty that, “this caused that to happen.”

Bluidy hell, that’s impressive.

In fact, so much so that I question whether it can possibly be true:

  • Did concerns over the Gaza strip really keep Joe investor from going out to dinner and a movie and thereby reduce GDP by 0.3% last quarter?
  • How do they know that Harry and Meghan’s impending royal nuptials will contribute £500 million to the UK economy when each eventually says “I do”?
  • Can you really tell me with certainty that a low inflation, low interest rate, record setting marketplace environment with high employment, corporate and personal earnings and a complete lack of investor euphoria is a sure sign of economic Armageddon in 2018?

Little wonder then, considering the editorial angle (read: downward) that sentiment levels are eight-years gone and still piss-poor.

Case in point on this side of the Atlantic; the financial headlines suggest the UK is a basket case with no hope and too much debt.

Eh, what about official figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS – or should that be Notional Statistics)?

At the end of 2016, “The total net worth of the UK was £9.8 trillion, up £803 billion from the end of 2015,” and noted as “the biggest rise on record.”

In fact, the ONS confirms UK debt at £1.72 trillion is only about 15% of the gross total UK worth.

Yet still the consensus of market opinion is like that of a boy who fell down a well; they can only see a dot of light at the top, and what surrounds them is a slippery ring of unclimbable stones; like a wall of worry that even the truth can’t seem to surmount.

And those well-stones are constructed of single variable correlations, ridiculous conclusions and stupefying negativity that builds the walls higher everyday: “This means that,” and “That caused this,” and “There comes the riot.”

It’s like The Jeremy Kyle show but without a lie detector, or even a grudging apology for the errors in yesterday’s news.

As Catherine Fisher suggested (above quote), staring too long into that darkness makes you see strange shapes and doubt what you know is true.

But the facts are there for everyone to see.

They’re right at the top of the well. 

Alan Steel, Chairman, Alan Steel Asset Management


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