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The Election, Your Investments and Why The Experts Get It Wrong

It didn’t take long for someone to make a connection between Clinton’s health scare on Sunday and the stock market.

How Hillary Clinton’s Health Scare Threatens The Markets

The premise is that the markets have always expected Clinton to win the presidency, but with a possible health issue it could hurt her chances.  It leaves the door open for Trump to win and the markets will become volatile.

The article goes on to suggest that certain industries and asset classes will do better (or worse) with Trump. For example, Trump has suggested the creation of a wall along the border of Mexico which will require construction crews and new infrastructure.  The journalists suggests that investors reevaluate their portfolio now.

On the surface, the story seems reasonable:  There is a new problem (Clinton may not sail into the White House), there is an alternative result (Trump wins the election), and there are implications of that result (The stock market could be affected).  The logic seems reasonable – It presents a clear and simple narrative.

In reality, the logic is broken.  It oversimplifies all of the concepts in politics and economics.  It does not take into consideration of all the nuances and complexities that exist in our world. Drawing a connection between Clinton’s health and your investments is a real stretch.

So why are articles like this so common? It deals in part with our desire to understand implications.  We think of issues in terms of “cause and effect” just as the article illustrates.  Our brains are wired to think in these terms because it creates a simple narrative for us to remember. But the sort of analysis needed requires thinking in terms of correlation and probabilities.  These are complicated forms of analysis and their results are not specific and concreate in a way that the average investor would find useful. It’s completely contrary to the “cause and effect” approach.