I don’t have a strong view on the hoax announcement that ANZ had withdrawn its support for the Whitehaven coal project. However, I do have some thoughts on the widespread claim that “Mums and Dads” lost significant sums of money as a result of the short-lived fall in share prices that ensued.
First, the claim is undoubtedly true. By the time they have enough money to invest in, or speculate on, the share market, the great majority of Australians have children. Nathan Tinkler, for example, is a father of four. Gina Rinehart is, at least according to her kids, a spectacularly bad mother, but she’s a mother all the same. The unremarkable fact that most owners of shares have children does not entitle them to any particular sympathy.
More importantly, this was a zero sum event. For every Mum, Dad, or childless person who lost money by selling at the bottom, another gained by buying.
Finally, what kinds of Mums and Dads lost money on this event? Anyone who left their investment portfolio unchanged over the course of the day was unaffected. So, the losers fall into two groups
(a) Unsuccessful speculators, who might be better advised to spend more time with their kids and less time playing the market
(b) A few unlucky parents who shifted their long-term investments the right way (that is, out of coal) but at precisely the wrong time
As regards Mums and Dads in group (b), I offer the consolation that, while they didn’t get the timing precisely right, a decision to sell coal stocks will very probably turn out well in the long run. And, as far as investing is concerned, getting out of coal is certainly the best thing they could do for their children.