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Posted: August 28, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Monkey Business

Just in case you missed this, the escaped monkey from Yerkes is still on the loose and officials have called off the search for the elusive creature. It has not been officially determined if the animal could be found hiding under the Gold Dome.

While it may be a coincidence it was also just announced that the president of Standard and Poor's, the rating agency that downgraded the United States financial rating from AAA to AA-plus, is stepping down.

The move by Deven Sharma was supposedly in the works before the downgrade and company officials maintain it has nothing to do with reports the Justice Department is investigating whether Standard and Poor's gave improperly high ratings to numerous mortgage securities leading up to the financial meltdown of 2008.

Yeah, and you can teach an alligator to play catch with a chicken.

Given these events, and the fact no other rating agency followed Standard and Poor's opinion in its downgrade of August 5, gives pause as to how much validity such a move really has.

If for no other reason the name of the company should be enough to make us wary. If you look up standard in the dictionary one of the definitions is ordinary. Look up poor and you will find the word "lacking."

So the name of the company making a judgment call on the financial strength of the United States could be Ordinary and Lacking. If that was your pitcher-catcher combination you would cut both of them from your team. Getting downgraded by a company named Outstanding and Excellent would be cause for worry.

It is difficult to understand the significance and even the reality governing economics and the financial musings of the wheeler-dealers. These are highly complex and confusing topics and even those who are reportedly experts and knowledgeable on the subject often have only a slightly better grasp of the matter than the escaped monkey.

Put three economist in the same room and you would be hard pressed to have them agree on anything.

Put three financial analysts in the same room and the only thing you can probably be sure of is one of them will come out without a wallet.

It is amazing so-called experts can sit in a closet doing computer voodoo and project a level of profitability for a company then see the company turn a nice profit but not quite up to the projections so it is termed a disappointing performance and as a result the stock drops. That's insane even by institutional standards.

One of the consistent reasons given for the volatile stock market and the desire of corporations to stockpile profits and not hire or expand is what is called concerns about the future.

Even on its face this is a dubious argument because unless you have Nostradamus on the payroll the future there will always be in doubt. These very worries about the future have resulted in reticence on the part of organizations or individuals to take action which has, in turn, made things slow to get better. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The difficulty is economics and financial dealings all turn on the worm known as human nature. Predictions and projections of any endeavor in which humans are involved is fluid at best because you never know how the people involved will react to any given situation.

On the day Ford announced its best quarter in years and Osama bin Laden was killed, the stock market went down. You would think such news would have had the opposite effect.

One likes to think logic and reason and the desire to do things to improve situations would govern human behavior, but human beings have extensive history and a solid track record at being illogical and unreasonable and finding ways to make things worse rather than better.

The result is we have people in plush offices making judgment calls on highly complicated matters and the reality is they may not have any more legitimacy supporting the decision than the guy coming into that office and emptying the trash can.

As for Standard and Poor's, they have an opening for president of the company. Wonder where that monkey is?

Freelance writer Ric Latarski can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.

 

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