Why Everyone Was Wrong in 2023 (And Why They’ll Be Wrong Again in 2024)

By Geoff Schaefer

Geoff is a Wealth Advisor with Intergy Private Wealth. He writes for The Steadfast Fiduciary to help people live with an abundant heart, open mind, and boundless generosity.

January 4, 2024

If you have not already seen “The Muppets Christmas Carol”, you are missing out on an all-time great Christmas movie and an absolutely fantastic performance from Michael Caine.  In that movie, and every adaptation of the beloved Dicken’s novel, Scrooge is visited by three spirits. The ghost of Christmas past, present and future. The ghost of Christmas future showed him what would be one day. What would unfold if Scrooge continued his selfish lifestyle. Scrooge was given a gift of seeing what the future held so that he could choose to make things right (which- spoiler alert from a novel published in 1843 and a movie made in 1992– he eventually did.)

Unlike Scrooge, none of us are blessed with the ability to jump ahead in time and see what will come to pass. The future is an unknown.

Most people agree with that statement, yet then turn and attempt to make predictions on what will unfold.

Here are a few economic predictions from early 2023:

  • “A recession is all but inevitable in the U.S.”

Real GDP grew, employment remained high, and the Fed’s monetary policy remained tight.

  • “The U.S. to enter a mild recession near the end of 2023” and “Real GDP growth of 2.4% for the year”

The 3rd quarter of 2023 saw a real GDP increase of 5.2%- not a recession.

  • “Emerging markets should produce strong returns” and “non-US assets, especially in Asia start to outperform.”

Major US indexes significantly outperformed their international counterparts.

  • “Higher for longer oil prices”

Oil prices are in fact down 7.4% since January.

The image below shows the major price target forecast for the S&P 500 by Dec 31st 2023.

S&P 500 Price Targets from major bank analyst

The S&P 500 closed the year at $4,769.

All of the claims in early 2023 had their merits, some still do. All were made by very educated people who are far more intelligent in economics than I am but… the claims were still wrong.

Were they wrong because the economist skipped one day of macro econ class at Harvard?

No

Were they wrong because someone mistyped a digit in an economic forecast model?

No

Why were they wrong? Because the people making the forecast were human.  Just like Mr. Scrooge, they had no idea what 2023 would hold and how the events of the world would unfold. No matter how intelligent we are, we do not gain prescience as investors. Knowledge has very little correlation to foresight.

“Read last year’s market predictions and you’ll never again take this year’s predictions seriously.” -Morgan Housel

I believe most market forecasters will tell you they truly do not know and are making their best guesses based on information they have today.  If they don’t say that, there is even less credibility to what is guessed. However, if we truly do not know what the future holds, why make decisions based on our speculation?  Why let the educated guesses of someone else cause you to lose sleep at night?

Unlike Mr. Scrooge, we will never get to see what the future holds.  Like him, we get the chance to work everyday toward a better future. I’m not sure what Scrooge received was knowledge of the future, but rather a realization of the true impact of his actions today; the actions that just so happened, to be completely in his control.

In the philosophical words of Bob Marley, “Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be alright.”

My prediction for 2024 is this, that the year will find a way to surprise us.

Happy New Year everyone!

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