Behavioral Economics

Investors Are Sticking With Pavlov's Dog Until Everything Breaks

Remember when “bad news is good news” first leapt into common parlance? At first it was used as a way to describe the reaction function of Fed policy-makers. It was taken as a cute turn of phrase in encapsulating the state the of the world. Over time, as Bloomberg's Richard Breslow explains, it’s morphed into an ugly and cynical way of justifying mindless investing behavior.

A Collision-Course With Crisis: Making The Wrong Choices For The Wrong Reasons

Life is full of examples where folks make bad choices for noble reasons. Not every decision is a winner: sometimes you make the right call, sometimes you don't. That's completely understandable and defensible. Fate is fickle, and no one is 100% right 100% of the time. But what's much harder to condone is when people embrace the wrong decision even when they have ample evidence and comprehension that doing so runs counter to their welfare.

Is The Market Rational After All?

This is the market we have now: dominated by delusional, irrational central planners with unlimited powers to create money out of thin air to fund their manipulations. Until the central planning madness destroys markets' ability to discover price and allocate capital. Then you end up with Venezuela: a failed state and a broken economy that can no longer feed its people despite the nation's vast oil wealth.

The Inevitability Of Unintended Consequences

Why central planning efforts will ultimately backfire - Anyone involved with managing projects, people or systems knows that the only thing that can be planned with absolute certainty is that things will never go 100% according to plan. History is full of examples where governments' best-laid plans failed in spectacular fashion, exacerbating the very problems they were intending to solve. Here are a few of our favorites...

The Statist Mindset

A libertarian mindset looks at the same results and concludes that if people are fallible, then the absolutely last thing in the world we should do is to give them sovereignty not only over themselves but over other people as well.

What If Economists Applied Their Own Theories... To Themselves

It appears that a main preoccupation of economists – the self declared “behavioral economists” prominent among them – is to show how dumb people are as consumers and in assessing risks. Drawn to logical conclusion, this implies that economists, advising benevolent dictators are the solution. In ancient Greece people flocked to oracles and sought guidance.; today, Councils of Economic Advisers, IMF, OECD, Nobel prizes sustain perceptions that "macro- strology" and much else of what economists do is "science."

Mother Yellen's Little Helper - The Rate-Hike Placebo Effect

Americans are increasingly likely to respond positively to a placebo in a drug trial – more so than other nationalities. That’s the upshot of a recently published academic paper that looked at 84 clinical trials for pain medication done between 1990 and 2013. These findings, while bad for drug researchers, does shed some light on our favorite topic: behavioral finance. Trust and confidence makes placebos work, and those attributes also play a role in the societal effectiveness of central banks. That’s what makes the Fed’s eventual move to higher rates so difficult; even if zero interest rates are more placebo than actual medicine, markets believe they work to support asset prices.

Amoeba, Fish, Lizard, Ape, Human, Investor... Meet Evolutionary Economics

We’re always interested in alternative economic frameworks that can help address the sizable gaps left open by classical approaches. Behavioral economics can fill part of that void, of course, as it describes some basic shortfalls in the assumption that we’re all superhuman welfare maximizing individuals. One step beyond that is evolutionary economics, which borrows from biology rather than psychology to form models about economic behavior.

"Lift-Off" Lies And The Fed's Reputational Risk

Every Fed watcher’s favorite word these days is “lift-off”. As if the Fed’s first rate increase, whenever that comes to pass, is the ignition of some giant Saturn V rocket that will inexorably carry interest rates up, up, and away. Please. This is Narrative creation … really, Narrative abuse … of the first order. The next time you read or hear someone use the word “lift-off”, I’m begging you to remember Jim Mora’s classic press conference when he was asked about the Colts’ chances of making the play-offs, because it’s a dead ringer for what Janet Yellen is saying in her heart of hearts.

The "Global Macro Investor" - An Interview With Raoul Pal

"We have a problem with this, and that is central bank hubris. They now think that they are omnipotent, because, essentially the government has said we are going to pass over all control of the economy to the central banks, they say to everybody else including financial market participants that “you don’t know, you don’t understand, we have our models and they are right”. And that kind of hubristic approach is when you sow the seeds of your own destruction."

5 Things To Ponder: Random Musings

"...The negative divergence of the markets from economic strength and momentum are simply warning signs and do not currently suggest becoming grossly underweight equity exposure. However, warning signs exist for a reason, and much like Wyle E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner, not paying attention to the signs has tended to have rather severe consequences."

Regret? Why Take A Chance

Behavioral economics suggests that a little QE can change human behavior at the margins, but no amount of QE is enough to change human nature at its core. The High Priests of the IMF, the Fed, and the ECB are blind to this because all of modern economic theory – ALL of it – is based on a single bedrock assumption: humans are economic maximizers. Yes, we are maximizers of reward. But we are also minimizers of regret. We seem destined to learn the hard way... once again...  that you can’t change human nature by government fiat. But individual investors and allocators can listen and learn from these old good ideas, and that’s how you survive the Golden Age of the Central Banker.