Taking Stock with Bulls and Bears

By Yonatan Gordon

Is there a higher source to our daily trades? To gain a deeper understanding of the stock market, let’s explore the relationship between bulls and bears from the standpoint of Jewish thought.

First some definitions from Wikipedia:

Bull Market: A bull market is associated with increasing investor confidence, and increased investing in anticipation of future price increases (capital gains). A bullish trend in the stock market often begins before the general economy shows clear signs of recovery.

Bear Market: A bear market is a general decline in the stock market over a period of time. It is a transition from high investor optimism to widespread investor fear and pessimism.

Who is the bull and who is the bear? Our first question is why do bulls signify market optimism and bears pessimism?

WHEN BULLS RAN WILD

Throughout Jewish history, bulls have been a symbol for impetuousness and progress. Sometimes, like with the Golden Calf, this was not a good thing. They didn’t wait for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai. But the Red Heifer is something that purifies—most definitely a positive thing.

In the Talmud, the rabbi considered to have the sharpest intellect is Rava. In order to start learning, Rava stated that he had to eat the choicest fatty meats from a bull. He needed a very real taste of mundane reality in order to express that which was revealed to him from above. It helped him ground his spiritual insights.

From these examples, a consistent theme comes out. If you have high, even forward-looking hopes for a stock, then you are bullish. Take new internet start-ups for instance. It used to be that vision always won out. Now over this past decade, people are starting to get more pragmatic and want to see the numbers. This is like Rava who ate bull in order to bring lofty ideas down to earth. It could be that these companies still have a powerful vision behind them. But investors want to see these ideas come down.

BEARS AND THEIR HONEY

What about the bear? The most famous examples is probably the Persian Empire or King Achashverosh as in Daniel (7:5): “And behold another second beast, resembling a bear, and it stood to one side, and there were three ribs in its mouth between its teeth, and so did they say to it, ‘Get up, eat much meat.’”

This could be the secret for why bears are such a pessimistic figure. The story of Purim, a Persian Empire tale, was very pessimistic indeed. But the upswing was that just as in the stock market, in an instant, the tides can turn. The decree (i.e. negative financial forecast) can also get overturned making the stock bullish again. As we know from the cartoons and nature shows, bears are always looking for that next great beehive of honey. Before you pick that next stock, make sure the outcome will be sweet.

BEAR VALUATIONS

What we see from this is that analysts are by nature more bearish. Through means of numbers, estimates and forecasts, they are attempting to approximate where and how much honey will be found. They are pragmatic in their search, a behavior that most resembles the bear mentality.

By relating bears though back to the Persian Empire and the story of Purim, we uncover a great secret to stock analytics. Rather than a simple progression—before we didn’t have honey and now we do—the release of a company’s’ earning statement can be like the complete annulment and reversal of a decree. For instance, if a company beats all expectations, then maybe this bear stock has now instantaneously become a bull stock!

EITHER POSITION OR VELOCITY   

To gain a better understanding of this concept, we will now relate our topic to a principle from physics called the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. In short, this law states that you can’t both know the position and velocity of an object simultaneously.

Who is trying to determine the position here? That’s the bear or analyst of course. The secret here is that either a company is always on the move, and therefore you can never know their true position, or they are static; and this itself is a sign of their devaluation. As mentioned at the beginning, the bull mentally is one of impetuosity. Now we will say something more. Bulls are always on the move. If you can pinpoint exactly where they are, then they are no longer bulls. Only a bear can be pinpointed.

So what does it mean that a stock beats all expectations? They thought they knew where the honey was. But then the decree that this company is a bear was annulled. This is like a reversal of fortune we experience on Purim. Once there was a bear (King Achashverosh) who thought he could make a decree pinpointing the entire Jewish people. Then he overturned the decree because he realized we had greater momentum than he ever thought possible. So he increased the valuation of Mordechai and took Haman off the stock market entirely.

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