2019 Predictions Will Miss the Mark, or Worse

A Bloomberg article by columnist Barry Ritholtz notes that this is the time of year when prognostications surface from strategists and analysts but asserts that they are, “for the most part, exercises in futility.”

“The problem with forecasts goes beyond their mere lack of accuracy,” he declares, adding, “My critique is with the underlying cognitive and philosophical failing that are associated with the entire forecasting industry: a lack of humility, the assumption of a skill set clearly not in evidence, and the most damning of all, a failure to recognize the randomness of the world at large.”

To prove his thesis, Ritholtz lists what he describes as “some of the more egregious predictions of 2018,” including those associated with Bitcoin, politics and gold. With regard to the markets, he notes that forecasts usually emerge from strategists at the bigger firms but that concerns about reputation keep them more circumspect than some others. Still, he said, there have been outlandish predictions, such as former White House Budget Director David Stockman’s bet on a market crash every year since 2012. “Good rule of thumb,” writes Ritholtz: “if you make the same call every year, even if it eventually comes true, you get no credit for it.”

Ritholtz concludes that in most cases, spending too much time on forecasts is “mostly wasted effort.”