Storms, financial or meteorological, are hard to predict

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 May, 2005, 12:00am

As mathematicians will tell you, the stock market is a lot like the weather. Both are chaotic systems with random and non-linear characteristics yet they exhibit recurrent trends.

You can more or less identify (financial and physical) storms that are going to make things happen in certain ways, but you would be a fool if you thought you could predict the details in between - and the devil is truly in the details. It strikes me as strange that the public unfailingly attacks the Hong Kong Observatory whenever it gets a forecast wrong, such as on May 9 when thunderstorms caused severe traffic jams in East Kowloon.

But we are surprisingly forgiving when financial advisers get things spectacularly wrong, even though it's our money they are messing with.

The Observatory doesn't have that luxury, and this is why I was truly touched when it wrote a reply letter in response to a critical editorial we ran about the May 9 mishap.

'Science does have limits,' it wrote in a letter to Talkback (below), explaining that the squalls were associated with thunderstorms.

'No meteorologist could forecast such short-lived events reliably.'

If only those money people could be as honest.