Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Great Depression's Most Unlearned Lesson

If the name Irving Fisher rings a bell, chances are you saw it attached to his quote from October 1929: He was on the record saying stocks had reached "a permanently high plateau."

Of course, the epic market crash came two weeks later. Fisher's reputation never recovered; the quote remains in circulation today.

Shame of it is, before that time the man's reputation as an economist had been well-earned and honorable. He was a successful inventor, health advocate, and prolific writer who made lasting theoretical contributions to the economic school of thought eventually know as monetarism. Milton Friedman said Fisher was "the greatest economist the United States has ever produced."

What's more, Fisher put his money where his mouth is -- which, in October 1929, meant that his considerable fortune was in the stock market. He lost everything in the crash and depression, including his own home.

For a time Fisher thought a fast recovery would follow, but soon enough he realized this was a grave misreading. He went back to the drawing board and undertook a study of the economic depressions of 1837 and 1873.

He published his conclusions in 1933, saying he had developed "what may be called a debt-deflation theory of great depressions." In brief, Fisher argued that great booms/depressions come with two "big bad actors" -- excessive debt, and a deflation afterward.

This analysis was spot on. But by the time he had it figured out, no one cared to hear anything from Irving Fisher about economics.

So in our day, the appalling irony is this: The conventional wisdom embraces Fisher's "permanent plateau" mistake, but is oblivious to the great lesson in economic reality he eventually learned.

That's why the new March issue of The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast begins with a Special Section titled An Impermanently High Plateau, which observes:

"If the economy is going to experience a depression... we should find evidence of Fisher's 'big bad actors.'"

Suffice it to say, the search for evidence is what this Special Section is all about. You can't afford not to know what that search uncovers.

You can read this Special Section -- and the rest of the analysis, forecasts, and unique charts in the March Financial Forecast -- risk free, on your computer screen in moments.

Click the Link Above to Get the Forecast for the Likely Intermediate-Term Direction of the Markets

The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast (EWFF) uses the Wave Principle to prepare subscribers for likely intermediate-term market moves before they happen. Co-edited by Steven Hochberg and Pete Kendall, EWFF is a monthly newsletter packed with wave analysis and commentary concerning important social and economic trends. With EWFF by your side, you can identify when it's best to invest in a market, and when it's best to step aside. That way you can minimize risk and maximize opportunity. See what's in the March issue now by click the link above.