Der "Business Press Maven" Marek Fuchs, ein Journalist aus USA, der die dortige Wirtschaftspresse kritisch und oft satirisch auf's Korn nimmt, hatte Ende Dez. zu Recht davor gewarnt, dass es nach nur zwei positiven Housing-Zahlen im Nov. und Dez. (jeweils geringfügig höhere Verkäufe als im Vormonat) zu früh sei, eine "Wende im Housing-Markt" zu verkünden, wie es die Presse lauthals tat. Und tatsächlich fielen die Januar-Zahlen dann wieder extrem schlecht aus (- 14 %). Vom Trend zur Erholung trotz viel Trara also keine Spur...
Hat die Presse aus diesem Trendvorhersage-Debakel gelernt? Mitnichten, fand Fuchs. Im Artikel unten fand er, dass die New York Times nun schon sogar nach nur EINEM positiven Datensatz die Wende im Housing verkündet. (Gemeinhin gelten in der Statistik mindestens DREI Datensätze als Trend-gegründend). Offenbar schreibt sie, meint Fuchs, was die Leute gern hören wollen - obwohl es falsch ist.
The Business Press Maven
Maven: Making Up Trends
By Marek Fuchs
Special to TheStreet.com
2/24/2007 10:37 AM EST
... I want to ask the business media what I need to do to get them to act responsibly...
What's in a Trend?
Just last weekend, I took the business media to task for letting two events establish a pattern in the housing industry. Under normal circumstances, it's bad enough that three statistics or anecdotes qualify as enough to declare a trend in housing or any other industry. But late last year, the business media let two flukish monthly housing numbers give birth to a whole round of articles declaring a bottom to the housing slump.
I pointed this out at the time, of course, and last weekend followed up by dancing on the grave of their misguided assumption, by pointing out how bad January housing numbers were. More important was the larger lesson: It was intellectually dishonest to have said that two numbers could even indicate such a reversal in fortune.
So how did the business media react this week? With contrition [Reue]? With a new awareness?
Nah. With the same old song and dance that will lose unsuspecting investors a lot. As if in open defiance of The Business Press Maven and all he stands for, the business media declared the psychologically important New York City housing market back in action after one good month. What's next? Nothing as an indicator of a trend?
Moreover, this wasn't some obscure article, but one of the most emailed stories of the week in The New York Times. I swear it had the feel of custom publishing for the paper's city base; give your readers what they want to hear and they'll love it. They'll even share it with their friends.
"Since the new year began," the Feb. 19 article begins, "a burst of activity has broken out in Manhattan and several Brooklyn neighborhoods as New Yorkers frenetically hunt for co-ops, condominiums and town houses ..."
Apparently, according to the article, the three largest real-estate companies agreed that in the month of January, the number of signed contracts rose in the double-digits compared to a year before. Plus, there is some, uh, anecdotal evidence of a bunch of people at open houses [open house = zum Verkauf angebotene Immobilie].
I can't dignify much of this with an item-for-item rebuttal. One thing I do want to say is that few journalists realize what experienced stock pickers always learn from mistakenly buying into fool's rallies. Even bad markets -- especially bad markets -- have good, sudden spurts that make a recovery seem to appear by magic. Sure enough, the article was quickly off to the races with lines like "Real estate experts say they see no reason for the trend not to continue." Whenever journalists are reduced to double negatives, you know they are stretching it.
Look, I've long been bearish on the housing market, so you know how I feel long term. If you don't believe me, look at how the demographics, which drove housing as much as interest rates for the past generation, have shifted. Baby boomers are starting to downsize instead of buy. Or, just keep it simple and look at land write-downs, default numbers, the percentage of highly aggressive mortgages out there or, well, the fact that there are still top-of-the-market articles embraced by the public, looking to convince itself of the inconvincible.
The main issue, though, is that as an investor who wants to read the business media well, you have to count how many separate statistics are marking the trend you're having forced down your gullet [Speiseröhre]. Three is bad enough. Two is going to get you in trouble. But one is the loneliest number...