As the world is entering 2012, the future for financial markets is getting increasingly harder to predict. According to Reuters, Wall Street leading financial prognosticators Byron Wien (Blackstone Group LLP) and Bob Doll (BlackRock, Inc) acknowledge that the prediction game has been a challenge in the recent years, due to a surge of unforeseen events, such as an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the near collapse of the Euro-zone and political upheaval in the Arab world, which left Wall Street’s gurus scratching their heads.
In previous years, when U.S. housing prices kept falling and oil costs were at bay, their guesses were close to reality. But today, the world has become so unstable, nature so volatile, and political events so far-gone that all of it can send U.S. markets into a rapid descent. Many skeptically inclined financial analysts concur that it is hard to predict what the world will look like tomorrow, less yet 12 months from now.
Birinyi Associates’ Laszlo Birinyi, whose stock market forecasts were widely followed, told his clients that “there are too many variables which are beyond our comprehension,” and therefore, he would not be making any predictions. Reuters informs that when Doll was asked to share his 2012 outlook, he said it used to be simpler to choose between stocks or to recommend sectors of the economy, “but when it’s the macro environment driving so many of these things, I do think it is more difficult.”
According to CXO Advisory Group, who monitor 60 US market “gurus” and calculate the accuracy of their forecasts, it “wouldn’t put much stock in their predictions” despite the high expertise of the latter. For instance, Wien was five for 10 in his 2011 predictions, including four that were “partially correct. “Who would have predicted the Arab Spring? That took everyone by surprise,” he said, referring to a wave of protests that toppled rulers in Africa and the Middle East last year.
The Wall Street experts still try to prognosticate on 2012, but not without disclaimers:
“These forecasts are not a blueprint for investors, but are designed to get people thinking about some issues they might not be thinking about.”
“I don’t have a monopoly on right answers. Hopefully I have a perspective that can add some value to people as they think through what they need to do.”
Financial experts created complicated models to predict the future based on past experience. However, today they often conclude that as long as the global markets are uncertain, we cannot bet on the future. A question arises: Why can’t we know what will happen to the systems that we created?
While Wall Street analysts explain that the problem is a combination of many factors, Alan Greenspan, the former head of the US Federal Reserve System said,
“The main reason for what is happening is human nature, which does not fit in the boundaries of the economic models.” (He also admitted that using regulation to solve crises had never been effective).
The fact that human nature pushes us to act out of personal interest is not the issue. The real issue is that we have become an integral system, meaning a single global organism. This is why the old methods no longer work. Life requires that we align ourselves with the new reality. There are time-tested, successful examples of integrality and reciprocity such as the human body whose livelihood depends on the altruistic behavior of its cells. Each cell works for the benefit of the whole, consuming only as much as it needs to continue performing its function. It is a perfect model of regularity: Every natural system depends on the proper interaction of its parts. If a cell falls out of sync, the other cells unite to restore balance among the systems and recover the organism.
This fundamental change in how we approach the future would switch our focus from self-interest to the good of all members of society, where society is an integral, single system rather than a mass of separate elements. In such a wholesome system, financial institutions would play an honorable part: sustaining everyone’s livelihood while everyone sustains the whole.
A good example of this new approach is how after days of public outrage, Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Stephen Hester agreed to waive his near £1 million ($1.5 million) bonus. In the end, the boss of taxpayer-funded RBS will have his controversial bonus capped at below £1million, but still, it’s a start.