|Focus this week: From www.zerohedge.com Authored by Avi Gilburt via MarketWatch.com, “Bob Prechter Warns Market Correction “Larger Than The Malaise Of The ’30s” Looms“. The following are some key points with a chart.
I recently interviewed Prechter, who released a ground-breaking book, “The Socionomic Theory of Finance,” at the end of December. In the 813-page book, which took 13 years to write, he proposes a cohesive model that takes into account trends in sociology, psychology, politics, economics and finance. I highly recommend the book.
As I’ve explained here, Elliott Wave theory says public sentiment and mass psychology move in five waves within a primary trend, and three waves in a counter-trend. Once a five, or V, wave move (the waves are sometimes described in Roman numerals) in public sentiment is completed, it is time for the subconscious sentiment of the public to shift in the opposite direction, which is simply a natural cause of events in the human psyche, and not the operative effect from some form of “news.”
Avi Gilburt: You’ve said that, once the stock market tops, you expect a major bear market and economic contraction to take hold. What is your general timing for this to occur?
Robert Prechter: The true top for stocks in terms of real money (gold) occurred way back in 1999. Overall prosperity has waned subtly since then. Primary wave five in nominal terms started in March 2009, and wave B up in the Dow/gold ratio started in 2011. Their tops should be nearly coincident.
Gilburt: What do you foresee will set off this event?
Prechter: Triggers are a popular notion, borrowed from the physical sciences. But I don’t think there are any such things in financial markets. Waves of social mood create trends in the stock market, and economic and political events lag behind them. Because people do not perceive their moods, tops and bottoms in markets sneak right past them. At the top, people will love the market, and events and conditions will provide them with ample bases for rationalizing being heavily invested.
Gilburt: You’ve said we will be mired in a “depression-type” event. How long could that last?
Prechter: I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that the degree of the corrective wave will be larger than that which created the malaise of the 1930s and 1940s.
Gilburt: How are conditions going to change from what we have now?
Prechter: The increasingly positive trend in social mood over the past eight years has been manifesting in rising stock and property prices, expanding credit, buoyant pop music, lots of animated fairy tales and adventure movies, suppression of scandals, an improving economy and — despite much opinion — fairly moderate politics. This trend isn’t quite over yet.
In the next wave of negative mood, we should see the opposite: declining stock and property prices, contracting debt, angry and somber music, more intense horror movies, eruption of scandals, a contracting economy and political upheaval. That’s been the pattern of history.
Gilburt: Where do you suggest people “hide” during this event for financial safety, and why?
Prechter: Short-term notes of the least unstable governments, held in the safest manner possible. The plan is to trade those investments for stocks, property and precious metals near the bottom. You can be calm and avoid suffering financially if you’re prepared. The trick to maintaining personal prosperity is to avoid popular investments at the turns. It’s not easy to do, but at a minimum, you need a fractal perspective on social trends as opposed to a linear one.
Gilburt: With the advent and proliferation of computer-executed trading, what effect have they had on Elliott Wave analysis, other than the speed at which trading is done?
Prechter: Virtually none. People build their errors of thinking into their programs.
Gilburt: While we use various technical indicators to support or show the weakness in any wave count, my favorite has been the MACD. Do you have any favorites that have been most useful to you over the years?
Prechter: Nearly all momentum indicators provide the same basic information. There are hundreds of them, because they are easy to construct, especially with computers. I don’t chart rates of change anymore because I can tell what they look like just by looking at prices. But momentum analysis is not simple. In the stock market, slowing momentum nearly always precedes reversals, but slowing momentum does not mean a reversal must follow. The 1985 and 1989-1994 periods are classic examples. In each case, the market slowed its rise — looking terminal from a momentum standpoint — and then accelerated. …The most consistently useful momentum indicator is breadth. If I had to rely on only one momentum indicator, that would be it.
Markets as ‘fractals’
Gilburt: Do you have any specific time frames in charts that, in your experience, have provided the most insight into a specific market or commodity?
Prechter: No. Markets are fractals. Nothing quantitative is meaningful or useful.
Gilburt: There is a debate among various schools of thought as to what is more important — price or time. What’s your perspective?
Prechter: What matters most is form. Form involves both price and time, although arguably price is the more definitive component.
Gilburt: I am sure you have seen a lot of time-cycle analysis in your career. In my experience, I have not really seen any that have been better than 50/50. I am just wondering why you think we are unable to develop the same accuracy percentages in timing models as we do in pricing models using Elliott Wave?
Prechter: I think the reason for your observation is that cycles are not the essence of markets. They are artifacts of the fractal form. They appear for a while and then disappear. Usually by the time someone recognizes a cycle and bets on it, it is poised to vanish. As you say, the success rate is about 50/50, so I don’t rely on them anymore.
I think Fibonacci ratios between the prices and durations of related waves are meaningful. I wrote a book about Fibonacci relationships called “Beautiful Pictures.” [Sand 2 Pirls note: Our Market Signal includes Fibonacci retracements in its calculations.]
Gilburt: What are your top three arguments to present to those who do not believe in socionomics but still hold fast to the old exogenous-causation theories?
Prechter: It took 800 pages in “The Socionomic Theory of Finance” to present arguments. But I can make three brief statements:
1. Events and conditions that are often labeled “fundamentals” have no predictability with respect to the behavior of financial markets, so they cannot be causal. (See chapters 1, 2 and 22.)
2. Financial markets differ in numerous fundamental ways from economic markets, implying that their behaviors spring from different causes. The key difference is that in economic markets the context is one of relative certainty with respect to one’s own personal values, which allows for rational decision-making, whereas in financial markets the context is one of pervasive uncertainty with respect to others’ future actions, which prompts people to herd. (See chapters 12 and 13.)
3. Postulating unconscious waves of social mood as a hidden variable explains a persistently compatible relationship among myriad social actions, from popular musical tastes to changes in the economy to political actions to women’s fashions to trends in the stock market. (See chapters 8 and 10.)