I can’t stop thinking about this interview with Bill Fleckenstein on CNBC the other day because it’s just the perfect example of the current stock market zeitgeist.
Fleck was brought on to talk about the new short fund he’s setting up for the first time since closing his last fund in 2009. As a longtime follower of Fleck’s writing I’m fairly certain that prior fund did very well during the financial crisis. Not only was he all over that mess BEFORE it happened, he had the balls to put his money where his mouth was and profit from it.
Today, he’s setting up a fund to once again profit from what he sees as another financial debacle in the making. And all she wants to do is give him shit for missing the upside over the past year or two! And I think, ‘why the hell would she even think of criticizing a short seller — who has effectively sidestepped the rally over the past five years — for not being long this market?!’ Since when are short sellers supposed to be long?
Oh, yeah. Since the market has gone straight up for five years. That’s the point when everyone and their mom decides that buying and holding an S&P 500 index fund forever and ever is the ONLY thing any sane person can do. Anything other than this strategy is something to be scorned.
Scorn the short seller. Scorn the market timer. Scorn the traders who haven’t captured every upside tick of the past five years. Scorn bond holders. Scorn anyone who hasn’t had at least an aggressive allocation to stocks. Scorn anyone who doesn’t just close their eyes, plug their nose and buy with both hands and then hold no matter what.
This kind of thinking is the hallmark of hubris: ‘Not only is my idea the right one. Any idea that is not exactly this idea is not only wrong it’s worthy of our worst scorn.’
And it’s not just this anchor. It’s also the most popular bloggers, pundits and publications you can find. It’s an ethos.
But do any of these folks remember when they were chanting, “buy and hold is dead,” just five years ago. It was the exact opposite of today’s ethos. Anyone who uttered the phrase, “buy and hold,” was ridiculed back then. Bears and short sellers were the ones heaping scorn on the hapless, hopeless suckers who bought the “buy and hold” line of BS.
It’s all just part of the sentiment wheel that keeps going round and round.