July 27, 2009

The Weekly Blather July 27, 1930

July 27, 1930 was a Sunday with no Journal, so again a little editorial commentary.

Administrative note: Starting this week, I've decided to cut down on the individual company earnings reports. These were becoming a little unmanageable in number. The original idea for including these was to give current investors a snapshot of which companies held up better then. I think there's probably been a good enough sample of that already, and in any case, there are enough differences with the current situation that the exercise, while helpful, is only moderately so. I also think this will let me include more interesting items day to day.

A short bit of blathering about blather.

First, let me define what I mean by blather, and its opposite, information.

Information is number of things produced, freight moved from one place to another, profits earned, money saved and spent.

Blather is opinion, speculation, pontification, and other -ions.

Of course, some things are part information and part blather; for example, a profit forecast given by a company is probably based on some real information (orders and sales already in hand), and on some blather (speculation on future trends).

One thing that I believe stands out when reading through a bunch of days in this blog is that (unlike in some other fields), in economics blather is often not worth much. I believe, therefore, that a useful filter to apply to any item of business news is to stand back and think carefully about what proportion of it is information, and what proportion blather. In fact, I believe this so strongly that while I try to give an representative summary of each day's paper in terms of optimistic and pessimistic stories, I do separate out the mostly-blather items into the market commentary section, while putting the information into the economic news section. I can't do this for your daily reading of the Wall Street Journal or watching of CNBC, but I believe if you do the results would be sobering and possibly beneficial. Not to mention maybe saving some blather-related time for more fruitful endeavours.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't the blather there as an ad hoc attempt to shape a story that the makes sense of the information? In fact, it seems to me that the blather is rather interesting in this period (probably ours as well), because it winds up being so spectacularly wrong. It also strikes me that the learning to recognize and discount blather as just so much noise is one of the great lessons a project like yours teaches.