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Stupid Things Finance People Say

By Morgan Housel - Nov 14, 2013 at 4:42PM

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Foot, meet mouth.

My job requires reading a lot of financial news. It's one of my favorite parts. But it gives me a front-row seat to the downside of financial journalism: gibberish, nonsense, garbage, and drivel. And let me tell you, there's a lot of it.

Here are a few stupid things I hear a lot.

"They don't have any debt except for a mortgage and student loans."

OK. And I'm vegan except for bacon-wrapped steak.

"Earnings were positive before one-time charges."

This is Wall Street's equivalent of, "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"

"Earnings missed estimates."

No. Earnings don't miss estimates; estimates miss earnings. No one ever says "the weather missed estimates." They blame the weatherman for getting it wrong. Finance is the only industry where people blame their poor forecasting skills on reality. 

"Earnings met expectations, but analysts were looking for a beat."

If you're expecting earnings to beat expectations, you don't know what the word "expectations" means.

"It's a Ponzi scheme."

The number of things called Ponzi schemes that are actually Ponzi schemes rounds to zero. It's become a synonym for "thing I disagree with." 

"The [thing not going perfectly] crisis."

Boy who cried wolf, meet analyst who called crisis. 

"He predicted the market crash in 2008."

He also predicted a crash in 2006, 2004, 2003, 2001, 1998, 1997, 1995, 1992, 1989, 1984, 1971...

"More buyers than sellers."

This is the equivalent of saying someone has more mothers than fathers. There's one buyer and one seller for every trade. Every single one.

"Stocks suffer their biggest drop since September."

You know September was only six weeks ago, right? 

"We're cautiously optimistic."

You're also an oxymoron. 

[Guy on TV]: "It's time to [buy/sell] stocks."

Who is this advice for? A 20-year-old with 60 years of investing in front of him, or a 82-year-old widow who needs money for a nursing home? Doesn't that make a difference?

"We're neutral on this stock."

Stop it. You don't deserve a paycheck for that.

"There's minimal downside on this stock."

Some lessons have to be learned the hard way.

"We're trying to maximize returns and minimize risks."

Unlike everyone else, who are just dying to set their money ablaze.

"Shares fell after the company lowered guidance."

Guys, they just proved their guidance can be wrong. Why are you taking this new one seriously? 

"Our bullish case is conservative."

Then it's not a bullish case. It's a conservative case. Those words mean opposite things.

"We look where others don't."

This is said by so many investors that it has to be untrue most of the time. 

"Is [X] the next black swan?"

Nassim Taleb's blood pressure rises every time someone says this. You can't predict black swans. That's what makes them dangerous.

"We're waiting for more certainty."

Good call. Like in 1929, 1999 and 2007, when everyone knew exactly what the future looked like. Can't wait!

"The Dow is down 50 points as investors react to news of [X]."

Stop it, you're just making stuff up. "Stocks are down and no one knows why" is the only honest headline in this category. 

"Investment guru [insert name] says stocks are [insert forecast]."

Go to Morningstar.com. Look up that guru's track record against their benchmark. More often than not, their career performance lags an index fund. Stop calling them gurus.

"We're constructive on the market."

I have no idea what that means. I don't think you do, either.

"[Noun] [verb] bubble."

(That's a sarcastic observation from investor Eddy Elfenbein.) 

"Investors are fleeing the market."

Every stock is owned by someone all the time. 

"We expect more volatility."

There has never been a time when this was not the case. Let me guess, you also expect more winters? 

"This is a strong buy."

What do I do with this? Click the mouse harder when placing the order in my brokerage account?

"He was tired of throwing his money away renting, so he bought a house."

He knows a mortgage is renting money from a bank, right?

"This is a cyclical bull market in a secular bear."

Vapid nonsense.  

"Will Obamacare ruin the economy?"

No. And get a grip. 

Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel's columns on finance and economics. 

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