I lost a big chunk of my IRA account yesterday. Which is okay, I guess, because retirement is still a ways off, and the men in my family don't really live that long anyway. But when stock in a company like Apple plunges after reporting the second highest US quarterly profits ever, $13.1 billion—second only to Exxon's $14.8 billion profits when oil prices surged in 2008—it does kinda point out how irrational markets can be.
Yeah, I know, investors are mostly buying future growth not current profits, but by any traditional Wall Street metric AAPL remains a bargain, with a price to earnings ratio of just over 10. That's tiny. And even if you don't agree, nothing about Apple has really changed since its stock peaked at around $700 a share a few months ago. The same investors who harangued Apple to release a lower priced tablet to compete with Amazon's loss-leading Kindle, are now fleeing Apple's stock after the instant success of the iPad Mini inevitably squeezed Apple's margins. What did they think was gonna happen? Meanwhile, razor-thin margin Amazon, sporting an astronomical P/E ratio of 3,299, is up again today, pushing near a 52-week high.
The point is, markets are tough to figure out, even for the experts. And all those Republicans fighting to push Social Security and state-backed investments like GET into the market are really just pushing Americans to gamble their future financial security. One can make educated guesses about individual stocks, but how well you make out still often comes down to speculation and timing. Retire (or send your kids to college) in the middle of a market crash, and, well, fuck you.
I suppose that may be the American way. But there's no call for celebrating it.