Every year, the media seeks a solution to the world’s least urgent query: what’s the temper like in Davos? And, annually, the reply’s the identical: it’s worse.

“Prior to now, the temper at Davos has oscillated between excessive optimism and unbridled gloom,” Guardian economics editor Larry Elliott writes. “This yr it appears sure to be the latter.” His is a protected prediction as a result of there may be little precedent for the previous. In 2022 the Guardian described the temper on the World Financial Discussion board as “apocalyptic”. In 2020, “amid concern {that a} disaster is looming”, WEF was “not precisely a celebration temper”. 2019 was “muted”. 2018 was “pessimistic”. 2017 was all about “anxiousness, defensiveness and self-reproach”. 2016 was “downbeat”. 2015 was “damp”. And so on.

Practically each WEF dispatch judges company and political confidence to be weaker than the beforetimes. A damaging tilt will be seen in a media phrase cloud of paragraphs that include the phrase “the temper in Davos”:


A preferred trope among the many Davos press corps is to say this prevailing temper is at all times improper, so their journey has worth to buyers as a opposite indicator. Jeremy Warner of the Each day Telegraph makes this declare yearly, maybe in homage to The Instances’s Anatole Kaletsky.

But when the vibes they divine are principally both “unhealthy” or “worsening”, does the opposite indicator concept nonetheless maintain? Or does cynicism do Davos Man a disservice?

To seek out out, we scraped mainstream English language media for articles revealed between 1985 and right this moment which have Davos, WEF or World Financial Discussion board within the headline. Of the 15,345 stories within the pattern, barely over 22 per cent include the phrase “the temper”:

© FTAV, Factiva

We then searched the complete information set for “sombre” or “somber”, the go-to temper descriptor amongst WEF commentators. A easy depend exhibits sombreness was at a document excessive across the January 2020 assembly, a number of months earlier than the world locked down:

© FTAV / Factiva

Doubtlessly extra informative is to point out “sombre” or “somber” as a proportion of articles revealed.

Early years are distorted by low pattern sizes — 1987 has a sombre ratio of 100 per cent primarily based on one article, for instance — so the graph beneath begins within the mid Nineties. Inside that vary, the ratio peaks in 2009 and the latter phases of the banking disaster:

© FTAV / Factiva

What is likely to be extra helpful is that after simply 19 days of 2023, and with WEF but to conclude, the year-to-date sombre ratio is already the fourth highest on document. That appears fairly unhealthy.

Looking for different temper clichés reveals one thing even worse:

© FTAV / Factiva
© FTAV / Factiva
© FTAV / Factiva
© FTAV / Factiva

Gloom is clearly the theme of 2023. “Subdued” and “cautious optimism” have been trending usually, at 13 per cent and 4 per cent of complete WEF articles respectively, however “gloomy” has an unprecedented 89 per cent media share. That’s four-standard-deviations-from-mean gloom.

Is that this important? Most likely not. The excessive studying is partly as a result of WEF’s 2023 Chief Economists Outlook begins: “Though there are some grounds for optimism, corresponding to easing inflationary pressures, many elements of the outlook stay gloomy.” Newswire stories of PwC’s annual CEO survey additionally leaned closely on the G phrase, and offering extra feedstock for churnalism. Then there’s the complication that phrases like “much less gloomy” are registering as a false damaging.

Looking for particular tonal phrases delivers cleaner outcomes. Right here’s the depend of WEF articles that reference “extra upbeat”, “extra optimistic” or “extra assured” versus these referencing “much less upbeat”, much less optimistic” or “much less assured”:

© FTAV / Factiva

And listed below are the identical discovering expressed as a simplified ratio. (The labels on every bar present actual ratios):

© FTAV / Factiva

Pulling all of the numbers collectively, the temper music from Davos over the previous three many years has regarded like this:

Be aware that the “cautious optimism” measure is inversely weighted © FTAV / Factiva

. . . Or sorted by the energy of negativity:

© FTAV / Factiva

On to which we will put the share efficiency of the MSCI World for that yr (proper axis):

© FTAV / Factiva

What have we discovered? Not a lot. The above chart exhibits a damaging correlation coefficient of simply 0.23 between WEF relative pessimism ranges and MSCI World efficiency. That’s weak to negligible, as correlations go, which means the reverse-indicator trope doesn’t stack up.

This isn’t to counsel WEF gloom works as an everyday indicator both, to be clear. Weak correlations work each methods. This yr’s elevated pessimism would possibly end up much like 2008 and 2001, when international equities fell loads, or it is likely to be extra like 1996 and 2019, when equities rose loads. Who is aware of? Davos Man actually doesn’t seem to, and neither do these tasked with judging his disposition.

The underside line is the one you most likely knew already, however there’s no hurt in having a preconception strengthened. As a predictor of inventory market efficiency, the temper in Davos, like a lot else about it, is completely irrelevant.

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