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Statistics and Damn Lies

To paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli. One of my favourite times of the year is here. With the opening of the N.F.L. season and baseball coming down to the end of the season, the orgy of numbers coming from both games is astounding and quite satisfying for a number nut like me.

As a kid, I revelled in the numbers from Baseball. I loved collecting and comparing them, but even as a kid I learned that all the numbers in the world are only telling you what happened in the past (which can be very important), but these numbers do not necessarily point to what will happen in the future. It is essential to know what has happened in the past (because we do not wish to re-do our previous mistakes) but to know the future is what we all crave.

Benjamin Disraeli by Cornelius Jabez Hughes, 1878.jpg
Benjamin Disraeli by Cornelius Jabez Hughes, 1878” by Cornelius Jabez Hughes, British (1819 – 1884, London, England London, England) – Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum, Historical Photographs and Special Visual Collections Department, Fine Arts Library. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Football is awash in numbers to the point where an entire industry has been created to use the statistics made by football games (Fantasy Football leagues), which astounds me that you create a game from a game (is that recursion?).

Financial analysts do the same things to investors. They have mega-tonnes of data on every single stock and what it has done since its start, and there are entire companies making fortunes analyzing these numbers, predicting what stocks “might” do by doing this analysis.

My understanding of the stock market is that it has no conscience and no memory. Each day is a new day, and it’s like a Simpson’s episode (i.e. most of what happened yesterday isn’t relevant and it is forgotten) on the Equities market. The simple fact a stock went down the previous day does not mean it will drop the next day (that fact alone, there may be other much better reasons, but the previous drop means nothing).

I have to laugh when I hear about “downward trends” and “upward trends” being reasons alone to buy or sell stocks. You may as well base your purchases on your lucky rabbit’s foot if you think that way.

Keep crunching those numbers, but remember the numbers alone are meaningless without the context of why the numbers happened.

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