Credit, Blame and a Heaping Cup of Coincidence

As an old Roman might have said, post hoc ergo propter hoc.

The Day

Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.

The Latin phrase came to mind while contemplating an intriguing confluence of events in the protest movement based downtown in Zuccotti Park. Right after Occupy Wall Street started to soar, so did Wall Street.

On Saturday, Oct. 1, more than 700 people were arrested during a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, the largest police roundup in the demonstrations that had begun two weeks earlier. Combined with an infamous police pepper spraying on Sept. 24, the mass arrests propelled Occupy Wall Street into the big time.

On Monday, Oct. 3, stock market trading resumed, and the Dow Jones industrial average slumped, to 10,655.30. But it then went on a tear, its fortunes rising in tandem with those of the Zuccotti Park crowd. By the final bell on Monday, the Dow had jumped nearly 12 percent since Oct. 3, closing at 11,913.62.

So it would seem that the protests have done Wall Street a great deal of good.

Ah, but there’s that pesky Latin. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. It means: After this, therefore because of this. Event A happened, and event B followed; thus, A caused B. It is a basic fallacy in logic, sometimes referred to as correlation not causation.

Just ask financial experts. Could Occupy Wall Street actually be what’s giving Wall Street its lift?

“Not one iota,” said Peter Cardillo, the chief market economist for Rockwell Global Capital. Philip J. Orlando, the chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors, agreed. “I think it’s more coincidence than anything else,” he said.

Both men cited other factors, like company earnings reports — “they’ve been coming in much stronger than anticipated,” Mr. Cardillo said — and signs that European leaders, as Mr. Orlando put it, “seem to be finding religion on their sovereign debt issues.”

“And the U.S. economy, contrary to what the protesters believe, is actually demonstrating some statistical strength over the last month or so,” Mr. Orlando said.

Still, it is no less logical to give credit to the “occupy” movement than it is to blame it, as some apparently do, for a recent surge of violence in New York.

On Sunday, The New York Post reported that the number of people shot in the city rose sharply in the past month, by 28 percent. During one seven-day stretch, the increase was 155 percent above what it was in the same period a year earlier.

What’s the explanation? The Post quoted high-ranking police officers as blaming the Zuccotti Park occupiers, because “their rallies pull special crime-fighting units away from the hot zones where they’re needed.” Thousands of officers are summoned to duty when Occupy Wall Street is on the march.

One could ask if so many officers are truly needed. Certainly no massing of police on such a huge scale is required when the protesters are camped in the park, and not much in the way of criminal activity is afoot.

More to the point, are we really to believe that the anti-Wall Street troops bear a wisp of responsibility for someone like the depraved snake who opened fire on Friday in Brownsville, Brooklyn, killing Zurana Horton, 34, as she picked up her child at a school? If so, then we might as well give them credit for the stock market’s surge. It makes about as much sense.

Not that many in Occupy Wall Street would want that pat on the back, said Nicholas Colas, the chief market strategist for the ConvergEx Group. “Look,” Mr. Colas said, “if you could prove causation, you’d empty that park in about 14 seconds.”

But why mess with a winning streak? “I think we ought to keep them out there until we get to 1,400 on the S.& P.,” Mr. Orlando said, tongue planted somewhere in cheek. At Monday’s close, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index stood at 1,254.19.

“If this is just a coincidental relationship, it’s sort of like changing your lucky socks,” he said. “Let’s keep them right where they are.”


For more local news, including at least $20 million worth of donations to four charities controlled by the Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, from businesses with interests in his borough, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s trial attempt at reducing subway refuse by removing station garbage bins and the trial of the police officers who shot Sean Bell, two of whom offered to retire, see the N.Y./Region section.

Here is what City Room is reading in other newspapers and blogs this morning.

The A-through-F high school report cards released Monday showed that only one out of every four New York City students who started high school in 2007 was ready to graduate in 2011. [New York Post] (Also see The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.)

The taxi and limousine commissioner, David Yassky, sent a systemwide message warning New York City cabdrivers about a $350 fine for excessive horn honking. [New York Post] (Also see The Daily News.)

New York State is trying to fire 130 workers who officials say abused their mentally ill or developmentally disabled charges. [Daily News]

A Department of Education investigation after a surge in Regents’ test scores at a Brooklyn high school found that an administrator there pressed teachers to rescore failing tests. [New York Post]

A 15-year-old from Queens was arrested on charges of attempting to rape two women in Laurelton. [New York Post] (Also see The New York Times.)

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is reportedly arguing with the Port Authority about whether the Authority or the city will pay for hundreds of millions in security expenses for city streets. [New York Post]

Elite Manhattan private schools are buying property so that they have room to expand. [Wall Street Journal]

Occupy Wall Street protesters are preparing for winter after briefly occupying a SoHo gallery. Barbers offered protesters haircuts, and Democrats are reportedly still figuring out how best to harness the movement’s energy. [Daily News, New York Times, New York Post, Wall Street Journal]

Richard Devine, the head of real property for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, said the group would not be leaving Brooklyn in the near future. [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]

A Latvian woman was sentenced to four months in prison for trying to smuggle night-vision sniper scopes to Russia. [Daily News] (Also see The New York Times.)

An interview with Harvey Araton of The Times, who discusses his new book about the glory days of the New York Knicks, “When the Garden was Eden.” [Metro Focus]

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to lease all the retail space at the Fulton Street Transit Center to one company, a departure from multicompany sites like Grand Central Terminal. [Wall Street Journal]

Officials charged that the much-ballyhooed Hooters rival Canz opened in Murray Hill without a liquor license. [DNA Info]

Recession-minded costumes for the practical Halloween partygoer. [Brokelyn]

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