Saturday, November 3, 2007

Market's on a roll!

There are not many things in this world I understand, though I suspect this revelation is not exactly earth shattering to you. I daresay you, with your customary perceptiveness, had divined as much early into our acquaintance. One doffs one's hat.

But of the things I understand the least, the pride of place goes to the stock market. It's not that I understand the theory of relativity any better, or the theory of which color goes with what. Its just that everybody seems to understand the stock market and I haven't a clue.

Hasmukhbhai is a recent acquaintance. A robust personality (his belts are custom made - the hide comes from extra large buffaloes) he is a walking encyclopaedia on the stock market. He has never said it in so many words but one suspects that even the Ambani brothers consult him from time to time. He knows Everything. Nominally he trades in industrial hardware (which is how I know him - we buy things from him from time to time) but it is easy to see that he runs this business purely for sentimental reasons. His real calling lies elsewhere.

The good thing about Hasmukhbhai is that he willingly gives advice and he is never embarrassed to show you what a doofus you are. "Frank" and "forthright" are adjectives that spring to mind.

The other day, I told him I had sold a few shares of Larsen & Toubro that we owned, because we wanted to buy some real estate.

"Sold it? SOLD IT!! What have you done?" was his first reaction.

After that he expounded on how it would triple in value in the next three months because the Institutions were buying it like crazy. I said, with unbecoming levity that I thought that wasn't much of a recommendation. Institutions are where people are committed, aren't they, after they are, you know, ga ga. What if some of the inmates had taken over the institution and started playing havoc?

This piece of buffoonery brought harsh rebuke.

"Financial Institutions, you fool! Don't you know anything?" Hasmukhbhai reprimanded me.

"What business is Larsen and Toubro in, that their stock is on such a roll?" I asked. This resulted in a longish monologue of which all I could gather was that they made every thing, the earth, the trees, the oceans, the deserts, the sky above and so on, all of which had a lot of export demand. And I had sold these shares! And something called Reliance Natural Resources Ltd. which saw its share price jump 15 times in the last two months without seeming to indulge in any kind of activity.

"Fool!", observed Hasmukhbhai.

"And what do THEY make?" I asked.

" They make natural resources, what else?" he replied, wearily shrugging his shoulders at the imbecility that abounds in this world.

So there things stand. Every morning I open the newspaper to check if the market has crashed and find that it has gone up a few hundred points. There are a lot of Hasmukhbhais in the papers, explaining how Institutions (presumably the ones that specialize in Finance rather than mental afflictions) are pumping money into Emerging Markets. I wonder if the markets aren't emerging merely because people are pumping money into it. But these are deeper waters than someone of my meagre mental abilities is permitted to swim in.

"Get out of the deep end!" shout the Hasmukhbhais of the world, "and let the experts do their thing".


Maddy said...

like u said it takes some doing to understand teh markets - but the equations become very difficult for the ustads when it is no longer the simple investor buying & selling stocks. We have the so called institutions - i.e mutual fund managers, pension fund managers etc with large resources of funds & who are paid to play the market for profit. they move funds rapidly into & out of a solid stock for their own reasons (good & bad) making the stock look a little stupid and volatile.

Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...

Re. the market going up - during the bubble back in 99-2000, the Economist ran an article called the 'greater fool' theory.

It said that, during bubbles, people know that the share (or asset) prices are grossly overvalued - however they continue to buy it anyway, because 'there will always be a greater fool who will pay more to buy it from them.'

The problem with this theory, of course, is that there may not a greater fool to buy it from us. ;-)

History may be repeating itself.


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