Know Thyself

The current whipsaw action of markets has resulted in a wide spectrum of forecasts ranging from a V-shaped recovery to the erosion of economies resulting in a prolonged recession. With forecasts abound, famed investor, Howard Marks, tackled this topic in his most recent memo. Mr. Marks notes one shock event is enough to throw forecasts into disarray, never mind the four playing out in real-time (COVID-19, severe economic drawdown, unprecedented central bank action, and oil price collapse). He opines those lacking experience navigating shock scenarios are disadvantaged compared to those with experience, but the present is without historical precedent. Pertaining to forecasting, Marks divulges his belief in those realizing exceptional returns require the necessary conditions of accuracy and a contrary position. While seemingly simple, forecasts are most often incorrect, and the inaccuracy can only be exasperated by the exceptionality of current circumstances. Marks buckets forecasters into two categories: “Those who don’t know – and those who don’t know they don’t know.” Investors willing to embrace the bounds of their knowledge and biases are conscious of their confidence limits and uncertainty inherent in investment decisions. A good strategy to prepare for the potential of multiple paths is to create a balanced, diversified investment strategy capable of withstanding shocks considered by those who know their bounds.