Nassim Taleb would have to be on anyone's list of the top market prognosticators over the past 25 years, but the honor drips with irony.
Taleb, after all, is best known for making something akin to a prediction in a book that railed against predicting.
In his book "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable," the author and New York University professor warned against the inability to foresee unusual events that have severe consequences. The book was published in 2007, just as the financial industry was beginning to crumble under the weight of toxic bets on home loans to low-quality borrowers.
After its release, Taleb was hailed as a visionary for seeing that the financial system was dangerously interconnected and that giant institutions posed grave dangers.
But he warned repeatedly against investors relying on market and economic soothsayers whose proclamations usually emanated from severe cases of collective thinking and confirmation bias.
"Our predictors may be good at predicting the ordinary, but not the irregular, and this is where they ultimately fail. ... What matters is not how often you are right but how large your cumulative errors are," Taleb wrote.
"And these cumulative errors depend largely on the big surprises, the big opportunities. Not only do economic, financial and political predictors miss them, but they are quite ashamed to say anything outlandish to their clients—and yet events, it turns out, are almost always outlandish. Furthermore …economic forecasters tend to fall closer to one another than to the resulting outcome. Nobody wants to be off the wall."
Yet the financial markets are littered with forecasters, most with either an outwardly bullish (optimistic) or bearish (pessimistic) bias. Most of them missed the financial crisis when it hit by being too bullish, and some have been too bearish since, worrying that another systemic collapse is around the corner when in fact equity markets, at least, continue to zoom to new highs.
Indeed, there have been some great calls and some awful ones over the past 25 years. Here is a look at some of them, in no particular order: