Monday, March 31, 2008

Stock prices

This morning I looked for an hour at CNBC -- a channel for those who love to talk about prices. They talk about changing prices as if it is the largest joy in life, and the most important matter in the world.

To be more precise: they talked about stock prices. What do you think of stock prices? Do you like them? Do you read them?

I've always skipped stock prices in newspapers, I don't even saw them really. But now I was looking at them, for an hour, and they couldn't escape my eye as they moved on and on on the screen, and as the men and women on the screen seemed to have the most lively and amusing conversations about them.

Suddenly someone pops in from France. A nice looking man, typical Frenchman, impeccable English, with a nice French accent. Then an Italian businessman, the businessman of the year !, pops in, also in impeccable English, with less of an accent than the Frenchman. He is a bit older than the Frenchman and does not wear a tie but a black pullover. The Italian is more relaxed -- he seems to have made his fortune already. Or do those who have gained a fortune always want more?

Then a lady walks back and forth on the screen, not doing exercises but pointing vividly at man-size graphics with... prices ! She seems to enjoy them, and seems to think that we enjoy then too. Do you?

My brother (Herman) said in a comment to my previous post that he was not amused when he saw the prices of his stocks fall. He lost (a lot of?) money. I promised him to write a comment on his comment.

The above is, in part, my comment. I could say more about it but hesitate to say too much as it has already become clear how I think about stock prices. Gaining and losing -- it's all in the game.

What about pensions and pension funds. I obviously hope that my pension will not be wiped away by a crisis. That's why I'm engaged with crisis prevention for already more than 25 years...

No, I was kidding. The real reason I'm engaged in crisis prevention is that I am concerned about people whose living conditions are much less fortunate than mine. I don't have any reason to be concerned about my own fate. I do worry, however, about other people's fate.

I remember vividly a letter from a (poor) Chilean friend of mine who lost his savings in a banking crisis in Chile. I also remember vividly my worries about my brother who had to face exorbitant high interest rates after the change of monetary policy in the United States at the end of the 1970s, just after he had emigrated to Canada and had to indebt himself to set up a dairy farm.

So here you have my thoughts, brother.

On the picture you see my brother and me, not yet discussing stock prices.


Herman said...

Just to be interested in stock prices without involvement is a bit unlikely for anybody. Who would be? So many things look uninteresting from the outside, or even interesting for the wrong reason...I mean not based on reality.

For instance if you may think you are interested in farming but have never run your own farm, then it's necessarily also based on false assumptions and romantic imaginations. I remember our uncle Gerard's, the first one to return to farming in the family, favorite example of misconceptions about farming among friends and family when he was sending pictures of what they thought was a hardship for them, namely the thrice daily watering of cattle with buckets in very cold weather (much more than one cow)on top off all the other chores that had to be done. It so happened they were using red buckets, and that was the main impression family and friends got from this activity. A colourful pretty picture of the joys of farming!!
He said he never even bothered trying to bridge the gap in perception and reality. It's just something you have to feel after already being exhausted of the other daily (year in year out) relentless grinding routines a cattle, and especially a dairy farm, throws at you with always the unexpected/expected 'little' extra's animal husbandry will typically present you with.

What I mean is that to judge the importance of or fascination with stock prices for certain people from the outside, is a flawed intellectual exercise in judgement, and a waste of time to boot!

First, buy enough stocks that your financial situation depends on the stock prices and then make a judgement how fascinating those numbers may be.

That's the view from here, brother!

jan joost said...

Brother, I remember our father was interested in stock prices, and doing business with them, not only for himself (and us, his kids), but also for his mother and brother.

When our mother died, I sold her stocks, as you may remember.

I have never bought stocks, but many people have tried to convince me to do so. 'Mr. Teunissen, you money is lying (wit an y?) idle with the bank, you can earn much more by investing it,' numerous phone callers representing brokers or whatever investment firms told me. 'No, sir,' I repeated time and time again, 'I'm not interested.

My brother in law did invest and sometimes we discussed the matter. Later I heard he lost a lot of money.

Our other uncle in Canada gave investment advice... He made a living of it. When I visited him a few years before his death, we did not talk about stock prices but about any other, more interesting things.

My interest in economics has to do with the way it affects people's life, more that of others than mine. I have a priviliged life, many don't have that. I am in favour of more equality and a few other things.

Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against people who like stocks and their changing prices. How could I?