Data vs. Wisdom

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / kentohIf you are an avid news reader, you are subject to a flood of information about the world. We read about everything from wars to weather, science, scandals, politics and gossip. This adds up to a wealth of data available to an informed investor to make decisions with.

Here’s the problem: most of it is useless. When you see a headline that seems to affect your investment choices, everyone else is seeing the same thing—and is already factoring that news into the stock price, good or bad. The entire vast store of public knowledge is of no use to us when the market condenses and distills all of that data into a single measure: the company’s publicly traded stock price.

Some economists go one step further and say that investment picking is fundamentally useless, because markets are so good at determining the fair price of an asset that it is impossible to find an undervalued asset. This is called the “efficient market hypothesis.”

However, we can see a flaw in this hypothesis: it rests on the assumption that human beings are rational. We’ve already noted that people are irrationally loss averse and prone to exaggerate market swings. When the stock market fell by 50% from June 2008 to March 2009, it wasn’t because half of our collective corporate wealth magically went up in smoke. We were seeing irrational market swings in action.

It is virtually impossible to beat the market using all of the data that goes into the market in the first place. Instead, we believe we can achieve positive results by using simple fundamental principles to avoid irrational stampedes and find undervalued bargains.

Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.