A Covid-Era How-To For The Money-Wise
Outlook|August 31, 2020
Lessons on investor behaviour during the unprecedented pandemic
Lola Nayar, Yagnesh Kansara & Himali Patel
A Covid-Era How-To For The Money-Wise

BOOMS and bull runs lead to “irrational exuberance”, a term coined by Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, in 1996. More than a century before him, author Charles Mackay explained the phenomenon succinctly in his aptly titled book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. He presciently wrote, “Every age has its peculiar folly...into which it plunges, spurred on by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation.”

Panics and investment pandemics, in contrast, lead to another kind of herd mentality, the lunacy that too is irrational and dynamic. However, what drives it is the pain of loss, the inevitability of volatility, and a desperate need to protect savings. Only in retrospect do investors realize the bitter truth in both cases. Economist Robert J. Shiller explained this about two decades ago when he wrote that the markets do not always reflect the “sum of the available economic information”.

What he implied was that the present prices of assets might give a distorted picture of the near future. During boom times, the high prices could suddenly fall. During crises, they could unexpectedly rebound. Since both the scenarios are unforeseen, the investors end up either taking the wrong decisions or making costly blunders. This was evident when Outlook spoke to dozens of investors on how they acted and reacted during the COVID-19 crisis, i.e. in the past six months.

This story is from the August 31, 2020 edition of Outlook.

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This story is from the August 31, 2020 edition of Outlook.

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