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Art x Science Office

Market Feelings

Stefan Leins, Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, Mercator Award winner 2017

Why do we need financial analysts? Until now economics has been unable to come up with satisfactory answers to this question, as empirical studies have repeatedly shown that events on the markets can’t be predicted. Even though analysts often fail to accurately describe future developments on the markets, in recent decades they’ve become established as important players.

Stefan Leins, researcher at the UZH Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, spent two years with financial analysts trying to understand their forecasts as a cultural practice. In his PhD thesis he shows how analysts position themselves as experts by reducing complex and often contradictory issues to market signals which they then package into coherent narratives. These narratives are used to present investors what’s happening on the markets as something that can be explained and predicted. As Leins shows, the success of analysts isn’t based on their ability to predict the future, but on their capacity for winning over other people with plausible-sounding stories.