Sunday, August 12, 2007

Battles between the Xiao Ren and the Junzi (on wild claims)

Towards the end of the Warring States more than 2,300 years ago, during the times of the hundred schools, unscrupulous orators and scholars made many wild claims to hoodwink rulers and the masses. If rulers of the states liked what they hear, these orators and scholars will be well rewarded and honored, if not they will be dismissed. If their theories and doctrines appealed to the masses, they would gained a huge following and popularity. However few of their theories or doctrines have ever been passed down to posterity, which probably meant that they had made claims which could not be substantiated. Obviously most of them were out to make a pecuniary gain while others probably thought their doctrines meant something.

For whatever it is worth, out of the many, only Zhuangzi and Mencius who followed the teachings of Laozi and Confucius respectively while not rewarded at the time, had gained much popularity down the millennia with the Chinese. In line with the thoughts of their ancients, rather than spreading wild claims to harm the people, both these minor sages stood by their principles and remained poor throughout their lives.

To cultivate Tao has real ethical values and meanings. It is better to be poor or remain obscure rather than cheat and bluff the multitude. But few down the ages can really follow their good examples, since who does not want to win fame and fortune, the easy way. (Think less popular Chinese thinkers and their doctrines.)

Down the millennia, times have changed, but human nature has remained the same. People are still greedy for fame and fortune in whatever means possible.

If we look at the web today, we find many ‘snake oil peddlers’ plying their ‘neidan’ trade with wild claims that if students massage here and massage there, and/or have controlled sex with the teachers or partners, students can probably attain Tao. Others charge an exorbitant sum to teach basic neidan meditation or a fee for the opportunity to read their treatises. Most of these ‘snake oil peddlers’ had indicated that they got a few years’ hotchpotch training from several dubious meditators and/or cultivators. However because of the ever growing popularity of neidan practice and Tao cultivation in the West, the less discerning fall into their well laid traps. Therefore caveat emptor.

Then there are so called ‘Shen Xian’ – the false prophets – who predict the performance of the global or local financial markets for their intended audience. They lure high personal net worth investors with a good sales pitch promising big returns and named their investment vehicles, hedge funds. Big returns mean high risk.

These hedge fund managers are very well paid and closely followed if their calls proved successful. Like the unscrupulous orators of the past, if they made wrong predictions or calls, all they lose is their well paid jobs, while their followers (the rich investors) sometimes lose their shirts. For example the various US hedge funds heading for Bankruptcy protection because of wrong calls on sub-prime loans.

If forced into a corner, with nothing to lose, some may even lashed out and try to bring down the global financial markets. An example was the warning of a credit crunch; purportedly the worst in 20 years, by Bear Stearns on Friday August 3 that made the Dow Jones Index fall 280 points in the last hour of trade. The steep fall reverberated and shocked the Asian stock markets the following Monday. According to Yahoo news, Bear Stearns held the media conference with an objective to smooth the nerves of its investors after the downgrading of its credit ratings. Instead it made wild claims about the worst credit crunch over a period of 20 years, perhaps benefiting those who shorted the stock market or index futures.

Yes, rather a good counter strategy, I suppose. Blame it on the rating agencies, the financial institutions, the US Federal Reserve or its former chairman – Mr. Alan Greenspan or anyone else involved rather than admit its own failure to foresee the downturn of the US property market, the sub-prime loans defaults, and the impending demise of its hedge funds. (Fund managers cannot blame Al Qaeda for their own failures, can they?)

Obviously, the trick did not work with discerning professional managers of US institutional investors. That is why they bought into the US stock market the next trading day which made the Dow Jones Index recovered the full 280 points previous day’s fall. The same recovery happened in Japan which also speaks volumes for the professionalism of her fund managers too.

With the exception of China, damage was done to the Asian stock markets where jittery investors and the less discerning tried to flee while being put to rout. For example those who bought the particular stock I sold on Monday July 30 near its peak may have panicked and sold them at its lows on Tuesday August 7 with a loss of 49%. If they had waited for the recovery of its shares price over the past two days before selling, their losses could have been halved.

In previous entries on the KLSE and on trade, one always suggests to take profits when preset targets are reached. From hindsight, the last entry on Cheerful Retreat was apt. It may not have helped jittery investors make money; at least they would not have disposed of their investments near the lows on Tuesday, thus preserving part of their capital or profits.

It is also not right for Yi aficionados to make wild claims on the impending collapse of stock markets based on various financial analysts’ statements on the global financial health which can unnecessarily stressed jittery investors. Neither should Yi students and experts come out with new age Yi systems to fool the innocent and/or weak students. If we want to be professionals, there are ethics to follow. If you are unsure what these ethics are, please reread the Zhouyi.

What I am trying to say in this entry is for readers to always discern between the trustworthy and the dishonest, between those reliable and those not, between the sincere and the insincere, to ensure the least likelihood of being misled by those whose claims cannot be substantiated or are an exaggerated repetition of old news in the financial markets.

While it is fun to witness the ongoing battles between the hedge funds and the developed rich nations (US, Europe and Japan) on the credit crunch, the bond markets, the carry trades, the currencies, and the recent oversupply of liquidity to calm down financial markets; it is time to reassess your own stock positions.

When ‘big elephants fight, the grass below invariably get trampled’. Trim your stock holdings or realize gains to hold some cash, if you feel uncomfortable. Otherwise fasten your safety belt and wait for the outcome of the ‘war’ between the Xiao Ren and the Junzi.

Since July 2003, the Yi has not forewarned of an impending financial crisis or another upcoming war, but what you make of it or of this entry is entirely up to readers and investors in the KLSE.

With the advent of the Ghost Festival month on Monday August 13, and the advance of the Xiao Ren (inferior or mean man) according to the Yi chart, expect more turbulence in the financial markets.


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