The Longer You Are Right, the Smarter You Are

William Smead
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Investment Officer







Dear Clients and Prospective Clients:

There is an amazing fact in investment analysis. The longer you are right, the greater the amount of intelligence people attribute to you. Along those same lines the more money you make in business, the more intelligent people think you are. It’s like the investment world is perpetually playing the board game LIFE. In the game, if you are lucky enough to get the right roll at the beginning, you become a Doctor. The medical profession had the highest income in the game and made you more likely to win. The game was invented in the 1960’s, when Doctors were the highest paid professionals in town and were also the most educated. Since they had the highest incomes and most years in school, people asked for their opinion on a broad array of subjects under the assumption that their personal success and academic education made their opinion more valuable.
 
At extremes in markets there has usually been someone of stature who felt early on that what has happened would happen. The longer that the trend continued and the longer that the person of stature continued to predict its continuation, the more intelligence investors attached to them. A few historical examples are in order. In the very high interest days of the early 1980’s two economists, Dr. Henry Kaufman and Dr. Albert Wojinalower, correctly predicted that the Federal Reserve and its leader Paul Volcker would tighten credit and raise interest rates high enough to break the back of inflation. They were called Dr. Doom and Dr. Death because of their bearish views on the bond market and the economy. Unfortunately for them (at the time that they were considered the most intelligent form their correct predictions) they were predicting 22 to 25% Prime interest rates at the peak in 1981 and told everyone to stay out of bonds at the single best time to buy them in U.S. history !
 
Mary Meeker and Henry Blodget were technology stock analysts in the late 1990’s and rode the dot-com bubble for everything it was worth. Once again they were idolized and ascribed great intelligence until the bubble burst and they stayed bullish a long way into the crash. They crushed their fan club in the process. More recently, the oil analysts at Goldman Sach’s were riding high from predicting in 2005 that oil would climb immensely in the coming years. They predicted $90 per barrel oil and ratcheted that prediction up as oil exceeded that target in 2007 and 2008. When oil reached $145 per barrel, they were considered total geniuses and flatly predicted a run as high as $200. I haven’t heard a word about them lately as oil is below $50.
 
Today, a banking analyst at Oppenheimer by the name of Meredith Whitney and a New York University Professor by the name of Nouriel Roubini, who correctly predicted much of the difficulty experienced in the banking and financial companies the last two years, move the markets every time they appear on CNBC or Bloomberg. Their intelligence meter is through the roof and the respect the markets pay them matches it. We at SCM assume that they will be singing the same tune all the way through the bottoming process and could be scaring investors away from financial companies at the bottom the same way that Henry Kaufman and Albert Wojinalower did with bonds in 1981! Remember, the longer a trend is in place the more risky it is to bet that it will continue and all of us are human, even the experts you see and hear on television.

Best Wishes in this Holiday Season,

William Smead

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