It's okay to say that sometimes we don't understand the markets

Earlier the pound moved up around 40 points against the dollar, to above $1.5 (a level the pound has been fluctuating around recently). Some foreign exchange commentators are saying they have no idea why. These are experts in what drives fluctuations in currency, and they are saying they are clueless as to why a pretty big shift has happened (it's been an unremarkable morning).

That a move in markets can't be explained isn't new, nor is it particularly remarkable. But it's interesting precisely because analysts rarely admit that sometimes they don't know what has caused a change. Often small variations can't be explained because not all of us have the same information, or because trades are based on things other than news stories (for example attitudes such as confidence).

An obsession with explanations can lead us to jump to the first answer that presents itself. Often underlying reasons are only revealed later. Poor knee-jerk explanations can be stubborn and hard to displace. Allister Heath on Cameron's explanation of the financial crisis:

There was no mention of the Bank of England’s role in fuelling credit with its low interest rates; or that of Western under-saving and Eastern over-saving; or of the moral hazard from implicit state guarantees; or even of sub-prime. It was, apparently, merely unprompted errors from UK banks.

(Full article)

When signs of the financial crisis first became obvious, many immediately assumed bank errors were the only cause. It was an explanation that would simply explain the collapse. Dig a little deeper, and it is apparent that the US government, through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, created a housing bubble that would burst in a spectacular way. Basel rules that treated government bonds as safe debt were ill-thought out, and meant that financial institutions were in a worse position as a result of the regulation.

It took a while for us to get a better understanding of the crash, but it was wrong to say that we had the answers available at the second it happened. There was a lot of confusion, and the extent to which government systems had undermined the financial sector wasn't widely understood.

Appreciating that information isn't perfect is key to understanding transactions, and analysts can show humility in restating that limitation. Market pundits shouldn't feel the need to explain every little move, and sometimes they can't.