Cutting Through the Noise of Financial Media

Given the recent bout of volatility in equity prices, there has been an abundance of financial pundits forecasting the next global recession is surely upon us. Trade war tensions heating up, global economic activity slowing, and yield curves around the globe inverting are the fodder for click-bait style headlines forecasting a sharp decline in equity prices and that investors should move to the sidelines and hold cash in preparation. Without touching on the behavioural aspects of why fear-inducing headlines attract more attention than optimistic outlooks, the question all investors want to know is: what is the probability that this a real-deal correction, or another head-fake where equity markets charge higher after a brief sell-off? This article provides a good analytical process for investors that are looking to refine their forecasting skills and block out a lot of the noise emanating from the financial media. Outlining the key principles from the book “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction” by Philip Tetlock, Levine describes how to craft a strong process around arriving at unbiased predictions. While in previous editions of Sagacious we’ve touched on the characteristics that are shared by “Superforecasters”, this article is a timely reminder of how important it is to establish a base case that is grounded in historical data, before tweaking that prediction to account for current conditions, and then updating as new information is received. Though the analysis in the article is much less bearish than one would assume from the headlines on CNBC, the process around arriving at a probabilistic prediction is the key takeaway in our opinion. Given the large proportion of luck that is inherent in the field of investment management, crafting a strong process around calibrating your predictions is a much more valuable tool than the analysis of what the actual outcome ends up being.