The German Octopus And The World Cup


Paul, the German octopus oracle, did pretty well predicting outcomes of 2010 World Cup matches. Paul’s approach wasn’t too scientific and, now that he is gone, a lot of folks are turning to animal prognosticators. China has a team of baby pandas and Germany has put Nelly the elephant on the task. 

In case you’re not a football aficionado, The World Cup – football’s version of the Ashes, Ryder Cup, Super Bowl, etc., etc. – began last weekend. A football glossary describes the event like this: 

“The World Cup is the most important football tournament on the planet. It is contested over 64 games by 32 national teams every four years and tends to be watched by a significant fraction of the global population… Long story short: it’s the most important trophy in the world’s most popular sport.” 

The World Cup also provides a lesson on sentiment-driven markets. Market sentiment reflects the optimism or pessimism of investors on the whole – crowd attitude – and it can send markets higher or lower. It can affect markets even when there’s no change in underlying fundamentals. 

So, how does it work? Goldman Sachs publishes a 67-page report, complete with a dream team line-up and interviews, titled The World Cup and Economics. It could be a program brochure for the event. Regardless, the report includes data about the performance of countries’ stock markets following a victory or defeat in the finals.  

Stock markets in winning countries tend to outperform by about 3.5 percent for the first month after the win but gains fade by the three-month mark, and markets tend to underperform the following year. When you remove significant outliers, runner-up countries’ markets typically underperform during the three months following the loss. It seems nobody is too pleased about coming in second.