Art Cashin, the dean of the NYSE floor, told a story on Tuesday at Barry Ritholtz’s Big Picture conference in midtown that illustrated this point perfectly. It was in the days before the Cuban missile crisis. Mr. Cashin was a young trader. One day a rumor mushroomed that the Russians had launched their missiles. World War III was starting. Mr. Cashin ran across the street to find the best trader he knew – who was in a bar having a drink. Mr. Cashin ran in breathlessly, hardly able to talk.
“Stop,” the trader said. “Have a drink. Explain everything.” After hearing all the information, the trader had one order: “Buy. Don’t sell. Buy.”
“Why?” Mr. Cashin wondered.
“Because if you’re wrong, the trade’ll never clear. We’ll all be dead.”
Well, moments ago futures ignored the venerable market strategist’s words and tumbled after a report from Polish Radio ZET according to which two stray rockets fell in the town of Przewodów on the border of NATO-member Poland with Ukraine (while unreported, the prevailing assumption is that the rockets are Russian)…
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