The evidence shows that if the market can be beaten in picking individual stocks, it is damn hard to do, and the vast majority of investment professionals fail trying. The exceptional stock pickers who consistently beat the market year after year, cycle after cycle, can be counted on one hand...and it is not clear whether their success is mostly due to luck...
The answer is probably that the stock market is just too complicated to be put into a basket of predictability. There are many thousands of "analysts," but, says the author, "the odds of getting it right are little better than chance..." One researcher said that the market was "a form of artificial life all by itself." In the days of Adam Smith (the younger) the idea was bruited about that it was nothing more than a "random walk" --- a phrase taken from Nature magazine (1905) on the predictability of finding the location of a drunkard by walking randomly through a field. The author says that two economists analyzed daily stock prices over periods 1951 - 1962, and found that there had only a "3% correlation one day to the next, which means that only 3 percent of the total variation in daily stock prices is explained by historical patterns, and the rest is pure noise."
An analysis of the success of future forecasters over the "past several decades shows that their long-term technology predictions have been wrong about 80 percent of the time..." The proof of this is a study by a Steven Schnaars, who studied forecasts over thirty years in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, Time and Newsweek. He states that Herman Kahn, a popular futurist of twenty-five years ago was "somewhere between 75 and 85 percent wrong, depending on the generosity of the grader." Among Kahn's howlers --- predictions for the end-of-the-century, are,
Is there anything that can be reliably predicted? Yes, says the author:
The Fortune Sellers is good journalism, worth the time you give to it. It is well put together, makes sense, and makes us wonder why the hell we would ever spend another cent on anything beyond Madame Shebazz and her crystal-ball down on First and Broadway. The cover is a dandy: "The Cheat," a 15th Century painting by Georges de La Tour. The woman you see over there to the right is looking at the guy in the middle of the page above who is busily pulling a couple of aces out of his back belt. The message: when you pay someone to predict the future (yours, the world's) you might as well be gambling with someone who has a few cards concealed about his person. He wins, you lose.