Friday, February 12, 2016

Investors' herd instincts affect us too

As the world's stock exchanges continue to tank, it's very easy to become cynical about the whole capitalist financial system that pulls the strings of our modern world.
The stock brokers that navigate/exploit the stock exchange system are usually portrayed as sober, conservative individuals, analytical and deep in their thinking, and employing the very best in computer models and hi-tech solutions.
But it seems that, as soon as things start to go wrong - as they are at the moment with oil at bargain basement prices, and the engines of world growth visibly sputtering - all that sobriety and rationality goes straight out of the window, and panic and hysteria sets in. They are reduced, in no time at all, to running around like headless chickens. We've all seen the images of frazzled brokers on TV and in the newspapers, and it's not pretty.
For instance, there is probably no good reason why bank stocks have seen a huge sell-off over the last day or so. Banks are no more risky today than they were last week. It's all about what I have seen described as "market emotion", as the herd instinct takes over and fearful investors blindly follow each other, desperate not to be the ones left out, and desperate to lock in a profitable turn on their share holdings.
I know, it's just a job, and they are just out to make a buck like everybody else. I am not so concerned for the bonuses of the fat cats of the stock exchange: it's more the implications their profit-seeking actions have on the rest of us. Our savings and RSPs are affected too, pension funds are affected. Hell, whole economies are affected and, while ours may be reasonably robust, these kinds of runs can put less sturdy economies into dire straits.
I'm sure this is a naive and simplistic viewpoint on a very complex issue that has exercised some of the best minds in the world for many years. But it all just seems kind of unfair, that's all I would say.

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