Think Twice When You Hear Predictions of a Market “Crash”

The “c” word (i.e. crash) is “awfully good at grabbing investor’s attention,” but there’s no way to know when it will arrive, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.

But that hasn’t stopped many from trying, the article notes, citing examples of some of history’s bold prognosticators:

  • Roger Babson, who “pioneered the practice with his 1920s newsletter of making predictions that he claimed were based on Newtonian physics,” and whose “reputation and fortune were sealed” when he forecast a “terrific” crash a few weeks before the 1929 event.
  • Elaine Garzarelli, who “nailed the 1987 crash in a TV interview” and subsequently became the best-paid strategist on Wall Street and “still profits from that call despite a spotty record overall.”
  • Robert Prechter, “who claims he predicted the 1982 bull market using an arcane ‘wave’ theory and has since reaped millions of dollars from subscribers.”

But predicting is a fool’s errand, says Universa Investments CIO Mark Spitznagel, who argues that “a grandiose, bearish call had about a one-third chance of being right in the past century. The article says, “even those who bet actual money correctly on crashes, such as hedge-fund managers John Paulson and Kyle Bass in the housing bust, have struggled after their big scores.”

The best way for investors to prepare for the next downturn, the article says, “is to accept that a crash could happen tomorrow.” But trying to insulate themselves by staying out the market means missing out of some of its best days.