"The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing."
NEW YORK (
) -- When people hear that I write about the financial markets, they often ask me: "So, what are stocks going to do this year?"
My response inevitably disappoints them: "I don't have a clue."
It's not what people want to hear, but it's the truth, and some wise souls can appreciate that. They know that, contrary to popular belief, sensible investing for the vast majority of people is not about getting a hot tip from some genius about whether the market will be heading up or down in the near future. It's not about reading some tea leaves and placing some well-timed bets on a winner.
It never ceases to amaze me, though, how many people in positions of influence and authority will so casually tell people otherwise. Open a popular financial rag or turn on a leading financial news network, and people from once-prestigious institutions like
J.P. Morgan Chase
Bank of America
are lining up to tell people what is going to happen in the stock market this year, next week or even tomorrow.
It is all noise. Having worked in New York's financial media for a decade, seeing prognosticator after prognosticator spew their predictions out over the airwaves, I'm here to tell you that none of these people have any idea what is going to happen. It's important for people who, like me, are investors and consumers of mass media to understand that.
Sure, we can make guesses as to what will happen, and some guesses are better educated than others. It's fun to make such guesses and debate them with friends and so forth, but at the end of the day, they're still only guesses, and if you're basing your investment decisions on guesses, you're playing some long odds. Why not just go to Vegas and have some real fun in the process of losing your shirt?
Could the debt crisis in Europe cause shocks to the global financial system that lead to another financial panic here in the U.S.? Well, uh, yeah. It could, but Europe might find a workable solution to its problems while the U.S. serves as a global safe haven for investors, powering major stock indices to new heights for years into the future.