Sunday, September 5, 2010

Maybe a weather man would be better

Everyone knows that the there is no better job than the weather man. Every morning this person checks the lastest satellite images for the latest weather trends without insight to cause and tells the public with the utmost confidence what the day will bring. What sets apart stock market analysts and weathermen is belief in an observable and discernable causality. We don't know what makes the weather. We do know what makes money.

Recent data from the US economy makes the weather man look rather insightful. The mixed influence of a worldwide slowdown and a stimulus has the economy giving strange signals. As recently as July, the technology bellweather, Intel, raised guidance for the year by 10% on high demand. Then just three weeks later the company recanted their upward guidance and stated they will achieve the lower end of their original guidance.

Then on the premise of an upside surprise on the August ISM manufacturing index, the market bounced and gained 5% on renewed optimism. A few days later, when the much larger services sector index underperformed showing only slight growth in the August and the July factory orders index came in below expectations, the market showed no reaction.

It is impossible to tell what is driving the economy right now, or if it is growing or falling off. Many analysts can point to many different data points, but they should defer to a professional who is comfortable with extreme uncertainty. The safest person to ask the direction of the market is to ask the weatherman.