Business Looks for Signs

By Morris, John | American Banker, December 18, 1984 | Go to article overview
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Business Looks for Signs

Morris, John, American Banker

More and more businessmen are seeking their fortunes in the stars -- or in layers of silt on the seabed.

Or they are looking for favorable signs in the way the sun and moon revolve around the earth; in geometric designs; or in the theories of a medieval monk named Fibonacci, who saw patterns in mathematical progressions. In short they are delving into the unorthodox, studying everything from technical cycle theory, to geoastrology, to Jeane Dixon.

To many this is mumbo jumbo, just a ridiculous flirtation with the crystal ball. But others refuse to dismiss it, believing that they can do with all the help possible when it comes to looking ahead.

Indeed, credit and foreign currency markets now depend to a great degree on interpretations of charts formed by plotting their price movements, and comparisons of these with past occurrences. Several years ago most players turned their backs on this technical threat to their trading egos; now they scrutinize the charts intensely, if only because everyone else does.

And, as charts and cycle theory became better accepted (some cycles, that is; not all) the more adventurous pushed the frontiers of knowledge further forward. Now bankers, as well as brokers and other professionals in various fields of finance, are taking notice of more modern-day oracles.

Take the Realtors of America, who have asked Jeane Dixon -- whose father was a banker in Europe -- to write in their magazine. (She also sat on the advisory board of the First National Bank of Washington, D.C., for several years until its merger in the mid-1970's.) And an increasing number of august bodies are asking her to speak at their conventions (she recently appeared before a large gathering of certified public accountants in South Carolina). Last year she presented her predictions for 1984 in American Banker.

"I know bankers read it" she said, "because as recently as last week a couple asked if I was going to do it again."

Wall Street giant Paine Webber Jackson and Curtis list Iben Browning among its consultants. His job: to study tree rings, radiation from the sun, sediment in the ocean Bottom, and anything else that might give a clue as to how things happened in the past. He is a climatologist and a passionate student of history.

"Once I determine that a set of (current) events has occurred, I relate it to history. You can find a relationship between these sorts of signs and what was happening then," he explained. If the future resembles the past, then a recurrence of the events could have a corresponding impact on modern society, he believes.

Mr. Browning talks to many bankers on behalf of Paine Webber, which, in the words of one of its spokesmen, uses him to help round out its overview of the total environment for economic opportunity.

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