The British satirical magazine Private Eye runs an occasional feature called Just Fancy That which delights in holding newspaper columnists to account. Its stock in trade is to highlight inconsistencies, hypocrisy and howlers in their work, often publishing contradictory excerpts side by side to reveal the writer's editorial flip-flops for all to see. One recent example is typical. On September 10, Britain's infamously lowbrow tabloid newspaper, the Sun, proclaimed that 'Margaret Thatcher is in the grips of dementia ... the former prime minister, 83, has been suffering from mental decline for a number of years'. Clearly, the Iron Lady's condition is worsening, because on November 17, the Sun then informed its readers that 'Lady Thatcher revealed she still regularly reads our pages at the age of 84'. If there were still an equivalent of Private Eye in Hong Kong, no doubt its editors would have had a field day exposing the shocking blunders and furious back-pedalling published in Monitor over the past year. As it is, I'll just have to hold myself to account. So today I'm going to take a look back at some of the occasions during 2009 when I stuck my neck out and made a prediction, only to wind it back in hastily when events proved me wrong. If my biggest mistake of 2008 was to begin the year in too positive a frame of mind, then clearly the greatest error I made in 2009 was the exact opposite: to start out far too pessimistic. For example, on February 9, with the Hang Seng Index up 30 per cent from its October 2008 low, I warned 'there is a risk that the modest rebound in stock prices could soon run out of steam'. Two weeks later, I repeated the warning, declaring 'stocks might appear attractive at current prices, but they could easily fall further over the coming months'. Almost three weeks later, and three days after the Hang Seng fell to what turned out to be its lowest point for the year, I was still cautious. I did note that 'with the Hang Seng Index priced at about 10 times estimated earnings for this year ... stock valuations are close to levels at which the market has bottomed in past economic downturns. Historically, investors who have bought when shares are this cheap have made handsome returns'. However, I then added that the Hong Kong market was being driven primarily by contagion, not valuation, and that if some of the gloomier predictions for United States corporate earnings came true, then the Hang Seng could still fall a further 10 per cent or more. As we now know, that turned out to be a poor call. However, I didn't take long to make an abrupt U-turn. By late March, with the market up 15 per cent from its low of just two weeks before, Monitor felt hopeful enough to run a headline proclaiming 'Stocks outlook rising', adding that 'investors who wait for company earnings to pick up before buying back into the market will miss out on the best bit of the rally'. Despite certain inbuilt scepticism, the column more or less stuck with that bullish line for the rest of the year. In April, it dismissed the threat swine flu posed to the recovery, and in May it argued that the tide of liquidity flowing into Hong Kong's financial system would be enough to drown any lingering fears about a renewed sell-off. Since then, the Hang Seng has risen a further 27 per cent. Of course, not everything was rosy. The strength of the liquidity-fuelled rallies both in Hong Kong and on the mainland soon began raising fears about dangerous asset price inflation. Monitor sounded an early alarm call. In June, it questioned the stability of Hong Kong's property price gains, and in the following month it warned about the threat of new bubbles developing in both the mainland's stock and real estate markets. By November, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and the International Monetary Fund had got in on the act, both pronouncing on the dangers of asset bubbles in Hong Kong. That was enough to lead to a careful re-examination of Monitor's position. If both Tsang and the IMF were saying the same thing, then surely it must be wrong, I reasoned, executing another U-turn. With stock valuations modest and property market leverage low, I argued that 'a credit-fuelled bubble seems a distant prospect'. The recent softening in both the stock and property markets would seem to support that conclusion. There were a few other flip-flops in 2009, too. At first, I was far too negative about the commitment of Hong Kong's regulators to rooting out and suppressing malpractice. For example, back in February, when it became clear that there had been an attempt to manipulate the vote on chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai's proposal to take PCCW private, I commented 'the vote will go ahead, and its result will stand, even though its credibility must now be tainted: proof once again that where tycoons' interests are involved, regulators are spineless, and that for some it is all too easy to game Hong Kong's market with impunity'. How wrong I was. After an initial period of inactivity, the Securities and Futures Commission sprang into action, challenging the vote's result in court, and successfully appealing when the Court of First Instance ruled against its challenge. As a result, I was forced to reverse my position yet again, somewhat grudgingly conceding in April that 'the Securities and Futures Commission's investigation into allegations of illegal vote rigging in Richard Li Tzar-kai's attempt to take PCCW private is to be heartily commended'. In retrospect, I am delighted to have made each one of the three U-turns. Just fancy that!