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The Limits of Stock Chart Reading – Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada

The Limits of Stock Chart Reading – Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada.

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 by  posted in Economics.

Any time people are compelled to decipher the future, strange methods and theories are sure to abound. The stock market has long been a haven of such folly.  Among the diviners in that arena, there are believers in the notion that planetary movements affect share values, that stock prices move in predictable wave sequences, and that certain geometric patterns on stock charts presage a change in trend. Nor are these habits of thought restricted to tiny corners of the stock exchange. Such is the eagerness to gain a clue into the future that there’ll always be numerous takers for far-fetched prognostications.

Scary Parallel

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/scary-1929-market-chart-gains-traction-2014-02-11

The latest example of this is a chart (see above) that is getting wide dissemination on Wall Street. The chart depicts two prices series, one of the Dow Jones Industrial Average between 1928-1929 and the other of that same index from mid-2012 to the present day. The two lines are strikingly similar in their undulations. Indeed, since the resemblance first caught people’s attention this past November, the correlation has persisted. What this is supposed to portend, of course, is a crash along the lines of October 1929.

Yet this presumes that patterns from the past can be reliably expected to recur in the future. It is, as Ludwig von Mises might have put it, to assume that there are constant relations in economic life — that the fact that events of type B have previously followed events of type A means that B will recur whenever A happens to arise. But there are no constant relations in human affairs. For, unlike natural objects, human beings are continually exposed to novel  experiences, from which they learn and orient their actions accordingly in unforeseeable ways.

Even the original purveyor of the above chart, Tom McClellan (publisher of the McClellan Market Report), concedes that: “Every pattern analog I have ever studied breaks correlation eventually, and often at the point when I am most counting on it to continue working”. Undaunted by this realization that the past is no certain guide to the future, he nevertheless persists in warning us to be wary about the market.

The only historical pattern with any semblance of predictive significance is the proclivity of the stock market to trend in the same direction for a significant period of time. These trends are commonly known as bull and bear markets. Why these exist is actually something of a puzzle. Stock prices, being time-discounted estimates of future company dividends, ought to gyrate randomly in response to new information. To the extent one ought to expect a trend, it should be a very gently rising one mirroring the long-term rate of economic growth.  The reason why this does not occur, however,  is that the central bank generates booms and busts with its monetary policies, booms and busts that the stock market ends up reflecting in bull and bear markets.

All that can be usefully gleaned, then, from a stock chart is the prevailing trend. To gauge that one need not draw precise historical parallels with past price movements. A simple moving average — like a 10 month — might do.  In other words, if a major index like the S&P 500 is above its 10 month moving average, the trend is up. Conversely, if the index is below the average, the trend is down. Even then, there is no guarantee that the indicated trend will continue for any specific amount of time.

Tomas Salamanca is a Canadian Scholar.

A Comedy Of IMF Forecasting Errors: Global Trade Growth Tumbles More Than 50% From IMF’s 2012 Prediction | Zero Hedge

A Comedy Of IMF Forecasting Errors: Global Trade Growth Tumbles More Than 50% From IMF’s 2012 Prediction | Zero Hedge.

The comedy of errors that are IMF forecasts is well known: it was covered most recently in “Hilarious Charts Of The Day: IMF’s “Growth Forecasts” Over Time.” Moments ago we got the IMF’s first forecast update for 2014 which also included the Fund’s first 2015 forecasts for growth around the world. Not surprisingly, they were largely higher across the board except for China which has seen its 2014 projected GDP growth collapse from 8.5% a year ago to 7.5% now, and is expected to drop modestly to 7.3% in 2015. The charts showing the progression of said hilarious forecasts are shown in their entirety below, about which one thing can be said with certainty: whatever the GDP growth rate in the world is in 2014 and 2015 it will be anything but what the IMF predicts it to be.

But perhaps the most notable feature of today’s set of numbers is the IMF’s forecast of world trade. In a word: it is crashing. Consider that 2013 world trade was expected to grow by 5.6% in April 2012. Now: it is more than 50% lower at just 2.7%!

Yet what is truly hilarious and certainly head scratching, is that somehow the IMF now anticipates a pick up in global growth in 2014 from its previous forecast of 3.6% to 3.7%, even as global trade is revised lower once more to the lowest prediction for 2014, and currently stands at just 4.5% compared to 4.9% in October 2013 and 5.5% a year ago (it goes without saying that the final global trade number for 2014 will be well lower than the IMF’s optimistic forecast).

How global GDP is expected to grow on the margin compared to previous forecasts even as trade contracts is anyone’s guess…

Behold the IMF’s revision to global growth forecasts: how does one spell error bars.

And here are the GDP growth forecasts for the rest of the world.

Global:

US:

Eurozone:

China:

IMF set to upgrade UK growth forecasts as global economy expands | Business | The Guardian

IMF set to upgrade UK growth forecasts as global economy expands | Business | The Guardian.

IMF Christine lagarde

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde says optimism is in the air, with growth forecasts for the global economy and the UK raised, Photograph: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty Images

The International Monetary Fund is widely expected to raise its outlook for the UK on Tuesday, pushing up the country’s growth forecasts by more than for any other major economy.

The Washington-based fund has been a critic of the UK’s over-dependence on consumers as well as the government’s Help to Buy housing market scheme. But it will bring a welcome boost to chancellor George Osborne when it updates its World Economic Outlook from last October’s forecasts.

Back then it predicted UK national output would rise 1.9% in 2014 but is now expected to predict growth of 2.4%, according to a Sky News report. The IMF said it did not comment on leaks.

The fund is also expected to upgrade its outlook for the global economy, which in October it said would expand by 3.6% this year. That would reflect the cautiously optimistic tone in a New Year’s speech from its managing director, Christine Lagarde, last week.

“This crisis still lingers. Yet optimism is in the air: the deep freeze is behind, and the horizon is brighter. My great hope is that 2014 will prove momentous … the year in which the seven weak years, economically speaking, slide into seven strong years,” she said.

If confirmed, the substantial upgrade to the UK is likely to be seized on by Osborne as further proof the coalition’s “economic plan is working” – an oft-used phrase in recent weeks as indicators have largely pointed to growth picking up.

The fund has in the past been highly critical of the coalition’s austerity drive. In a damning indictment of the British chancellor’s economic policies last year, the IMF’s chief economist Olivier Blanchard warned Osborne would be “playing with fire” unless he eased the pace of budget cuts.

The IMF has also echoed other economists, including experts at the UK’s own Office for Budget Responsibility, who said that the UK remains over-dependent on debt-fulled household spending to grow.

The latest crop of official data underscored those concerns, with weaker outturns for construction and manufacturing and a jump in Christmas retail sales.

Economists generally feel, however, that overall growth will pick up this year and the IMF is just the latest of a string of forecasters to raise the UK’s outlook.

The business group CBI has pencilled in 2014 growth of 2.4%, theBritish Chambers of Commerce expects 2.7% and the OBR forecasts 2.4%.

report from EY Item Club on Monday forecast UK economic growth would pick up to 2.7% this year from 1.9% in 2013. It too warned the recovery was not built on solid foundations, however, due largely to the pressure on household incomes.

Peter Spencer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club said: “It is hard to find another episode in time where employment has been rising and real wages falling for any significant period of time. The weakness of real earnings is proving to be the government’s Achilles heel and could prove to be the weak spot in the recovery.

“Consumers have reduced the amount they save to fund their spending sprees. But they cannot continue to drive growth for much longer without an accompanying recovery in real wages or a rise in their debt to income ratio.”

There have also been warnings that the recovery is not being felt throughout the UK, and is instead largely benefiting London and the south-east.

study by the TUC trade unions group on Monday said the recent recovery in jobs had failed to reach the north-east, the north-west, Wales and the south-west, leaving them in the same situation or worse at providing jobs than they were 20 years ago.

The overall unemployment rate for the UK has been coming down faster than policymakers and most other forecasters had expected. Official data on Wednesday are expected to give a jobless rate of 7.3% for November, down from 7.4% the previous month.

Many economists expect the continuing drop in unemployment will prompt the Bank of England to tweak its forward guidance. At the moment, the BoE’s guidance is that, barring various exceptions, it will not consider raising interest rates from their current 0.5% until a threshold of 7% unemployment is reached. The Bank may well lower that threshold for considering a hike to 6.5% unemployment, economists say.

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