Exactly a year ago today, I published a post looking at some of the predictions so-called psychics were making for 2015. Now that we’re safely in 2016, and it’s been a year, I think it’s time to go back revisit their claims.
First up was Sidney Friedman, the so-called “mentalist to the stars.” His forecasts for the economy included:
- the U.S. economy will have a temporary downturn/slowdown in early Spring;
- unemployment rate drops even more, to around 5.1%;
- The Dow Jones will finish 750 points or more higher than where it began;
- Interest rates will go up just a little, an eighth of a point here and a quarter point there.
Ok, so how did he do? Ignoring, of course, the vagaries like “to around,” or “up a little,” which drastically increase the scope of being “right” and the fact that there are clear trends in economic cycles that make such “predictions” easy, such as the likelihood of interest rates increasing over time.
On Point 1 – Nope. As the graph below shows, the market did have a downturn – quite a big one in fact, but in autumn, not “early spring.” If you were basing you stock picks based on Sidney’s advice, you’d have lost out. Score 0-1
Likewise, his point 3 is also wrong. The Dow’s adjusted close started the year at 17,832 and closed the year at 17,425, a decrease of 407 points, not just well below his predicted 750 “or higher” points increase, but essentially the polar opposite. Score 0-2
On point 2, I’m going to give him a qualified win – he said an unemployment rate of around 5.1% and November 2015’s figure (the latest available) is 5%. Of course, it was 5.7% in January 2015, and given the improving economy, knocking .5 bp off the rate wouldn’t have been that hard. In fact, given the size of the US’s population, normal workplace attrition would account for a large chunk of that. Score 1-2
He just scraped in on point 4 too, with the Federal Funds rate increasing by 25bp to 0.5% in December… but again, given they’d been static since the middle of 2008, everybody has been anticipating an increase anyway. So a qualified win, given the expectation was for an increase and his vague “here and there” timing. Score 2-2
His next point was about the Oscars. Now, here he did predict Patricia Arquette to win for best supporting actress, but was wildly off when he claimed best animated movie for The Lego Movie, which wasn’t even nominated (a travesty, if I must say so myself). He was also wrong in saying “Selma” would win best picture. It didn’t – Birdman did. Score 3-4
Next up, came a bizarre prediction about a “molar vortex” – “a story related to teeth, potentially in the New York area.” Ok, I’m going to have to give Sidney this one. Apparently, on Dec 30th, New York Knicks player, Cleanthony Early, was shot and mugged… and among other things the crooks stole were the gold caps in his teeth. Score 4-4
He also forecast a “record or near record spell of heat” for Chicago, which then promptly did the opposite, breaking a 131-year-old record for its coldest February. So wrong there. Score 4-5
He went on to speculate about Beyonce and J-Z’s marriage, saying that they’d announce the arrival of a second child in 2015. Google tells me there was a lot of speculation around the middle of the year, but it seems she isn’t. Score 4-6 Ok, I’m ignoring the rest of his celeb predictions, such as “Taylor Swift will eat at Shake Shack in NYC but still won’t gain a pound” because they’d just stupid.
On with the rest.
Nope, the fez didn’t become the next big fashion thing. Score 4-7
Although a bird species, previously thought extinct (Jerdon’s babbler), was discovered in 2014, it didn’t happen in 2015, as Friedman predicted. Score 4-8
There might be some islands under threat of submersion, due to global warming, but none actually disappeared during 2015. Score 4-9
The strangest one… ok after his prediction that a hipster would trip over his beard… was about “a tree grows in Brooklyn, … and in Queens. Something related to trees in the boroughs of New York makes news.” Now, Google did give me a Christmas Eve story about a tree being planted in Brooklyn. Kinda freaky, until you read on and find out it’s part of a greening process, that’s being going on for the last 8 years. So not really something special. I’m giving him a nope on this. Score 4-10
He claimed – oddly – that time would stop. Now, there was a leap second during 2015, but that adds a second to UTC, so technically not stopping time. Score 4-11 His follow-up claims that there would be a scientific discovery regarding time and light is too vague to comment on, although a Google search revealed nothing that jumped out at me. Score 4-12
However, his claim that a dog would break a world record came true – twice. First Purin the poodle set the record for “most balls caught by a dog with the paws in one minute” and then Otto the bulldog, skateboarded through 30 pairs of human legs. No, really. Score 5-12
And nope, the tango didn’t surge in popularity; there was no surprising increase in the sale of printed books; there was no significant earthquake in or around Los Angeles (hell, you only have to look at this page to realise just how many quakes LA has a day, so forecasting a quake for LA is hardly mystical); Ukraine’s economy is in trouble but it didn’t collapse, no cures for Parkinson’s, nor Alzheimer’s, disease were found; and the city halls of either Los Angeles, Chicago or New York weren’t plagued by newsworthy bad smells.
Final Score: 5- 19 – that’s a 21% strike rate… and that’s being generous with at least two correct predictions. That said, the one about the teeth in New York is kinda freaky.
Ok, so the other one I looked at was Craig Hamilton-Park, who wasn’t quite as vague in his predictions, but wasn’t as accurate either.
- No, Prince Harry didn’t get engaged Score 0-1
- Yes, there were volcanic eruptions in Japan and Hawaii (hardly surprising, plus he missed the big eruptions in Guatemala, Mexico, Indonesia and, of course, Mount Etna.) Still, to be fair: Score 1-1
- There were anti-austerity and student riots in London, but certainly no riot by striking policemen. Score 1-2
- Joan Collins is still alive, at 82. Score 1-3
- There were no deaths in the British Royal family. At least, not the important parts of it. Score 1-4
- No, Zara Philips is not pregnant, despite what the Daily Fail would have you believe. Score 1-5
- There were no “Strange fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field,” although there was a solar storm over new year”s, but that doesn’t count as “strange.” Score 1-6
- No nuclear submarines got themselves into serious problems… that the governments have told us about anyway, and there was no Titanic-esque maritime disaster. Score 1-7
- Josefina Vázquez Mota did not become Mexico’s first female President. Score 1-8
- There was no bad earthquake in Mexico City, and given that the mayor was assassinated two days after taking office, his prediction about the cartels being brought to justice is also wrong. Score 1-10
- Yes, Paris did have terrorist attacks, but they weren’t from “loan gunmen” (sic) and you’d think the fact that Paris was hit twice, would have made it stand out, rather than be included with Berlin and Rome, which had no attacks. Score 1.5 – 10
- No celebrities were kidnapped, and no member of the Saudi Royal Family attacked – physically anyway. Several were mentioned for being awful, awful people. Score 1.5-12
- Neither Facebook, nor the BBC developed a search engine to challenge Google. Score 1.5-13
- Yes, the Conservatives won the UK election, but not by a whisker, and Cameron wasn’t kicked into touch shortly afterwards. Score 2-13
- China hasn’t bailed out Russia’s economy, nor have the two countries become closer.
Final Score 2-15 – a measly 12% strike rate for Hamilton-Park, which is probably worse than just guessing at what’s going to happen.
Clearly these guys need to polish their crystal balls… not that it will stop the gullible handing over money to these fraudsters.