Planets, bones, Fibonacci numbers or the greatest-fool liquidity theory?
THIS column is supposed to be written early in the week. It should, ideally, be finished by Tuesday morning. I have, however, over time, developed a fine working relationship with my sub-editor who allows me to submit copy on Wednesday and I have even managed to stretch it to Thursday on one occasion, although I detected sufficient tetchiness to learn not to push my luck too often.
The reason the copy has to be in early is not, as has been suggested, so that teams of highly paid lawyers can pore over it and remove all the bits that are likely to cost the Sunday Times millions in libel actions. It is quite simply a matter of logistics.
My colleagues, who are proper journalists and cover exciting breaking news stories, only really leap into action towards the end of the week when they can be found tapping frantically away on their computer keyboards.
This means the subs have nothing to do early in the week and if they get my copy at least they can have fun thinking up witty headlines. So I have to choose a subject that is unlikely to be past its best-before date by the weekend.
I mention this only because I am going to write about the widely predicted stock-market crash which is supposed to happen any day now.
As most of us have been told, the world equity markets are all massively overbought and are about to disintegrate, taking with them the life savings of pensioners and orphans and causing tidal waves of poverty never before seen in the history of the world . . . or something like that.
The first mutters of meltdown came from no less a person than Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve in the US.
Obviously a man with such power and influence can be expected to know what's going on, and when he expresses his fears that markets are overheated then we should all take heed. Except, of course, that he was wrong, or two years too early, and the markets have surged since then. This is the very week where terrible things are predicted to happen which is why I carry my time caveat.
The gloomsayers' principle argument seems to be that this is the 10th anniversary of the crash of 1987 and er . . . that's it.
That has to be one of the vaguest reasons to expect a market collapse (called a "technical correction" incidentally by stockbrokers who don't like scaring their clients) except that, if enough people get the jitters, the prophecy could become self-fulfilling.
THIS is precisely what the gloom pundits hope for, of course. There are people who, eager to grab their 15 minutes of fame, spend their lives predicting stock-market crashes in the hope of being proved right one day.
You only have to crack it once and you will always be remembered for your sage advice. You can then start up an investment news letter and invite investors to subscribe to it. With any luck, you will make sufficient money from giving advice never to have to worry about your own investments ever again.
I find it difficult to link the fortunes of financial markets to Fibonacci numbers, wave theories, tidal pull or astrological charts.
After all, a share price doesn't have any free will and simply reflects demand and supply and, to an extent, demonstrates nothing more than the greater-fool liquidity theory.
THIS theory states that a share price will keep on rising, irrespective of the quality of the company's earnings or management prowess, until nobody else can be found to pay an even higher price.
Although there is nothing wrong with a price: earnings ratio of 40, particularly if it becomes a p:e of 80 in a very short time, common sense surely has to kick in at some stage and tell you that the real reason for that p:e is frenzied share buying rather than intrinsic value.
South Africa's new converts to capitalism, many of whom were avowed commies not so long ago, must marvel at how easy it is to make piles of money without actually having to do any work. All one apparently needs to do these days is to either be in the financial services or information technology sectors and have good "empowerment" credentials.
Clearly, the only way to make real money is to start a black-owned bank which produces computer games for street children.