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9月17日 华尔街日报——投资美国

(2008-09-22 08:53:40)
标签:

投资者

报摘

财经

分类: 华尔街日报

动荡市况下投资者何以自处

 

果你仍未从过去这几个令人痛心的日子里得到什么启示的话,那么你应该了解“显而易见”与“不可避免”之间的区别。

在这个情况最危急的时刻,这两个概念似乎是一回事。在投资者消化这个周日华尔街传出的诸多噩耗时,显然他们会感到恐慌,因此,市场不可避免地会受到打压。显然,雷曼兄弟(Lehman Brothers)不得不关门,因此,申请破产将不可避免。显然,美林(Merrill Lynch)靠自己维持不下去了,因此,不可避免地要由美国银行(Bank of America)这个更大的机构来接管它。

Getty Images
一位交易员周一在纽约证交所内

但在这 时候,投资者──至少是散户投资者──实际上并不惊慌。他们只是停下了脚步。7月份(最新可以得到的)数据显示,共同基金投资者只撤出了在股市基金里投资的每100美元中的2.62美元。这个比例甚至低于他们从债券基金里的撤资幅度,尽管刚刚过去的这个夏天股市的走势让人很不顺心。

据Strategic Insight研究人员对数十年来有关基金投资者在各种市况下所作反应的数据分析,这种迟钝是一种典型反应。大型基金公司Vanguard Group负责散户投资者业务的蒂姆•巴克利(Tim Buckley)说,公司昨天接到的投资者电话和网上询问只比9月份一个一般周一的平均水平多10%-15%。巴克利说,不论华尔街上有多恐慌,大街上依然平静。

马里兰州25岁的系统管理员斯科特•亚法(Scott Jaffa)称昨天的市场大跌对他的心理考验跟其他许多事情一样。他反问到:既然我在接下来的30-40年并不需要动用那些钱,我为什么要对这些资金在过去几天或几星期甚至几个月里的表现感到担忧呢?

亚法表现出了古老的斯多葛学派和伟大的丹麦哲学家克尔凯郭尔(Søren Kierkegaard)所谓的“平心静气”,或者叫“沉着冷静”。但他知道,这种平心静气不是天生的,是需要修炼的。一年半以前,亚法销毁了他的网上401(k)帐户登录代码,这样一来,他就不能随时立刻进入退休帐户了。他的目标是,让登录这个帐户变得非常难,且在他凭自己的情绪交易之前需要有“人的互动”。如此一来,他才能够面对周一的股市大跌而不为所动。

这正是“显而易见”并不导致“不可避免”的例子之一。或许对职业理财经理来说,显而易见,小投资者在动荡市况下是问题所在,但并不是散户们引发(甚或普遍参与)了疯狂抛盘。事实上,感到恐慌的往往是那些有经验的理财人士。

但显而易见和不可避免的差别比这个要深刻地多,它可归结为我们大脑思维的生物学基础。掌管投资的大脑区域在某些事情上表现糟糕,而在其他许多事情上很出色,但除这些之外,它有一项神奇的功能,那就是会愚弄自己。周一的这些看上去显而易见且难以避免的事在那之前24小时在我们听来都会认为根本不可能。

周日之前,即使是大部分华尔街人士也不会当真相信雷曼兄弟会垮台。截至上周五收盘时,该股的市值为25亿美元,显示投资者整体上根本不相信雷曼兄弟会就此倒下。

但到周一早晨,每个人的想法都被“倒回去”修改过了。突然间,雷曼兄弟的破产“成了”不可避免的事。心理学家称此为后视偏差,也就是所谓“我早就知道会这样”的怪异心理。

历史上这样的例子不 枚举。比如,辛普森(O.J. Simpson)案的判决让人们相信,他们之前预测过他会被判无罪(不管他们在陪审团作出裁决前实际上说过什么)。

雷曼兄弟一朝倒闭,我们中间没人会记得我们刚听到这个消息是多么吃惊。普林斯顿大学心理学家丹尼尔•卡恩曼(Daniel Kahneman)说,后视偏差能让吃惊感消失。而这正是投资者最大的危险所在。后视偏差让我们误以为我们本来知道过去的事情会怎么发展,从而进一步让我们以为自己能预测未来会怎样。但如果过去会让你感到意外,你又怎么能相信自己能破解未来呢?

问题的答案已一目了然。它也指明了即使是在市场近乎疯狂的情况下投资者应如何保持明智决策。

做逆向投资者:约翰•邓普顿爵士( Sir John Templeton)笃信,投资者应在市场极度悲观的时候买进。这个时候市场人气极差,人们只想持有现金。波士顿投资公司Loomis Sayles & Co.副董事长丹尼尔•福士(Daniel Fuss)又说,它不是一个时点,而是一段时期。没有人能知道何时悲观情绪刚好达到顶点,但要察觉一个时期悲观兴趣相当浓厚却不难做到,比如眼下就是。我昨天跟福士交谈时,他称现在的市场是“买进公司债券的绝佳时机,可拿到1974年以来从没有过的价格。”不惧风险者可以考虑一下房地产股;胆子奇大的人甚至可以考虑配置一小部分金融股。

留一些库存。在纽约从事财务规划的盖瑞•沙特茨基(Gary Schatsky)说,不要只是一个劲儿地哀叹:所有东西都在跌,都在跌。找张纸,写下你拥有的所有资产和你欠的所有资产。然后,仔细检查你的每项资产和债务,看看你怎样才能改善自己的资产盈亏状况。在股票、债券和共同基金短期收益为负的情况下,你可以将注意力转向支付或重组你的高风险债务,从而尽最大可能增加你的资产净值。

一步步来:如果你真地夜不能寐,那就卖掉一些股票,或将部分资产转为债券或现金。但每次的幅度不要大,并且行动之前要先跟你的税务顾问谈谈,以便从这种渐进式操作中获得尽可能多的税务实惠。在你让钱挪动起来的时候,恐惧或许已经不见踪影。

敢于质疑权威:如果金融业真地正在走向末日,没有人会知道,特别是那些正在为末日悲号的所谓专家。1929年,从传奇交易员杰西•利物莫尔(Jesse Livermore)到大亨约翰•洛克菲勒(John D. Rockefeller)、再到财政部长安德鲁•梅隆( Andrew Mellon)都宣称,股价下跌没什么好担心的。但他们错了。在市场下滑时保持乐观并没有错,而是不能相信专家的一致意见。鉴于眼下华尔街人气如黑云压顶般一片阴霾,到最后很有可能乐天派反而是对的。

How to Handle a Market Gone Mad

 

If you learn nothing else from the last few harrowing days, you should learn the difference between what is obvious and what is inevitable.

In the heat of the moment, the two perceptions seem identical. It was obvious that investors would panic as they absorbed the news about Bloody Sunday on Wall Street, so it was inevitable that the market would take a slashing. It was obvious that Lehman Brothers had to go bust, so a bankruptcy filing was inevitable. It was obvious that Merrill Lynch could no longer make it on its own, so it was inevitable that a bigger institution like Bank of America would take it over.


But investors -- at least individual investors -- don't actually panic in times like these. Instead, they freeze. In July (the latest month for which final numbers are available), mutual-fund investors pulled out just $2.62 of every $100 they had invested in stock funds. That was less than they took out of bond funds, even though the stock market had just gone through a nauseating summer swoon.

According to researchers at Strategic Insight, who have studied decades' worth of data on how fund investors behave, this inertia is typical. Tim Buckley, who oversees retail investor operations at Vanguard Group, says the giant fund company had only 10% to 15% more phone calls and online inquiries yesterday than on a typical Monday in September. 'However much panic there might have been on Wall Street,' said Mr. Buckley, 'there [was] no panic on Main Street.'

Scott Jaffa, a 25-year-old systems administrator in Silver Spring, Md., called yesterday's plunge 'as much a test of my psychology as anything else.' Because he does not need the money 'for another 30 to 40 years,' he asked rhetorically, 'why should I worry myself about its performance over a period of days or weeks or even months?'

Mr. Jaffa is already developing what the ancient Stoics and the great Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard called ataraxia, or imperturbability. But he knows that ataraxia does not come naturally; it takes work. A year and a half ago, Mr. Jaffa destroyed the online access code for his 401(k) so he could no longer have instant access to his retirement accounts. His goal was to make it 'significantly harder' and to require 'human interaction' before he could trade on his own emotions. That enabled him to watch Monday's decline without acting on it.

Here, then, is one way the obvious is not inevitable. It may be 'obvious' to professional money managers that small investors are the problem in turbulent markets. But it's not individual investors who cause (or even widely participate in) a selling frenzy. It is, instead, the 'smart money' that tends to panic.

But the differences between obvious and inevitable run much deeper than this, all the way down into the biological bedrock of our minds. The investing brain is bad at some things and good at many others, but above all else, it has a remarkable capacity for fooling itself. What seemed so obvious and inevitable Monday had, less than 24 hours earlier, struck nearly all of us as impossible.

Before Sunday, not even most people on Wall Street really believed that Lehman would go bust. The stock finished last week with a market value of $2.5 billion, showing that investors as a group simply did not believe that Lehman would go under.

But by Monday morning, everyone's beliefs had already been retroactively revised; suddenly, Lehman's bankruptcy had been 'inevitable.' Psychologists call this hindsight bias -- the uncanny feeling that 'I knew it all along.'

History is full of such instances. The O.J. Simpson verdict, for example, convinced people that they had predicted he would be found innocent (regardless of what they actually said before the jury made its decision).

Once Lehman went bust, none of us could remember how surprised we were when we first heard that it might. As Princeton University psychologist Daniel Kahneman says, 'Hindsight bias makes surprises vanish.' And therein lies its extreme danger for investors. By retroactively fooling us into thinking that we knew how the past would unfold, hindsight bias tricks us into thinking we know how the future will unfold. But if the past took you by surprise, why should you believe you can decipher the future?

The question answers itself. It also points the way toward a sane course of action even as the markets seem to have gone mad.

Be a contrarian. The late Sir John Templeton preached that investors should buy at the 'point of maximum pessimism,' when market sentiment stinks and no one wants to hold anything but cash. Adds Daniel Fuss, vice chairman at money manager Loomis Sayles & Co. in Boston: 'It's not a point, it's a period.' No one can find the point or moment at which pessimism hits its exact zenith. But it's not hard to identify a period in which pessimism is extreme -- like right now. When I spoke to him yesterday, Mr. Fuss called this market 'the best opportunity to buy corporate bonds at phenomenal prices since September 1974.' Risk takers might take a look at real-estate-related stocks; extreme risk takers might even consider a small allocation to financial stocks.

Take an inventory. 'Instead of just saying, 'Everything's going down, everything's going down',' says Gary Schatsky, a financial planner in New York City, 'write down on a piece of paper everything you own and everything you owe.' Then go through each of your assets and liabilities to see how you might improve your position. In a period when stocks and bonds and mutual funds are not delivering positive short-term returns, you can probably add the most to your net worth by turning your attention to paying down or consolidating your high-cost debt.

Take baby steps. If you truly cannot sleep at night, sell off some stocks, or move some of your money to bonds or cash. But do so a little bit at a time, and talk to your tax adviser first in order to maximize the considerable tax benefits you may be able to get out these incremental moves. By the time you get any money moving, the panic may already have passed.

Question authority. If the financial world really were coming to an end, nobody would know it -- least of all the pundits who are currently crying doom. In 1929, experts ranging from the legendary trader Jesse Livermore to John D. Rockefeller and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon all declared that falling stock prices were nothing to worry about. They were wrong. The lesson is not that it's a mistake to be an optimist in falling markets, but rather that it's a mistake to trust the consensus view of the experts. With the mood on Wall Street now as dark as a mushroom farm, optimists are much more likely than pessimists to be proven right in the end.

Jason Zweig

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