Monday, April 6, 2009

Declarations about Certainty and Questions about Nuance

Over the past couple of weeks I have posted several pieces that are skeptical in tone, including (especially) my post on Experts. This posting must have touched a nerve, as I received more comments about this posting than any other prior post on the site. It seems folks thought that was ironic for someone who claims himself to be a commodity market expert to dis experts on his site.

(By the way, one of the signs that my blog is gaining traction is that readers contact me now to provide their opinions. FANTASTIC! And THANKS!! I am lucky to have readers who care, and all comments are appreciated. If something in particular strikes you, leave some comments at the end of the posting for others to consider. Heck, most of the readers of this blog are smarter than I am - so you will probably teach me (and everyone else) something significant.)

Allow me to move back to the "Experts" subject, though. Indeed, I do encourage everyone to have a robust skepticism of what they think they "know". I side with Nicholas Taleb in this regard - in The Black Swan he says that the market is far more random than folks want to believe. There are analysts, marketers, and consultants throughout the world of stocks and commodities that make recommendations on how you (Mr. Third Party) should allocate your assets or time the market. Do they know with any reliable certainty? Of course not, otherwise they would keep their mouth shut and do what they are recommending with their own money.

However, just because the markets are more random than we perceive or want them to be does not mean that they are ALWAYS random. There are times when folks can execute a winning trade through research and discipline (and serendipity).

Unfortunately, the fact that the markets are random does not excuse us from having bottom line accountability to our banker (or our wife or our employees or our manager or our owner or our shareholders). It is the game we play, and those are the cards we have been dealt. The fact that markets is difficult or irrational does not excuse a business owner from making educated decisions.

Working with a market professional whom you trust can help you stay away from the cycle of greed, hope, and fear. Professionals can advise you on on the fundamental, seasonal, and technical factors in play in the market. Most importantly, professionals can help you discern the questions to ask yourself about your business. When you understand the questions, you can define the answers...and when you know the answers with certainty, decisions can be made with confidence. It is lonely (and a little scary) to make those decisions in solitude.

I appreciate the role of experts. But we must ask ourselves if those experts are engaging speakers that make declarative statements about certainties or whether they are humble market professionals that ask questions about nuance.

Any thoughts???

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