Despite all the technological, scientific and financial advancements we’ve made, our heads and hearts are still occasionally ruled by irrational emotions and superstition. Here are a few strange financial superstitions we’ve found around the world.
Throughout history, people have been relying on a wide variety of superstitions, rituals, objects, and symbols to navigate life’s uncertainties. Even in today’s era, where the normal man on the street lives in a world filled with rich tapestries of information and has access to incredible computing power, we’re still slaves to ancient beliefs.
A paper written by two professors from the Nanyang Business School and University of California studied 1,384 new companies that listed themselves in China (probably one of the most superstitious countries in the world) between 1991 and 2005 and discovered that, when it came to the IPO market, “investors did generally prefer listings with lucky numbers”. Due to this, IPO firm managers generally pushed for numerical listing codes with favourable numbers for their clients. The same paper examined the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and found out that the “proportion of firms with lucky listing codes [was] 22 percent more than expected by chance…and 17 percent less than expected” for unlucky listing codes.
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If you’re wondering what numbers are considered lucky in Chinese culture, it’s 0, 6, 8, and 9. These numbers are considered auspicious because their names sound similar to certain positive Chinese words.
Trading behaviour based on superstition isn’t just restricted to the Chinese markets. Gabriele Lepori from the Copenhagen Business School studied the effect of 362 visible lunar and solar eclipses that occurred between 1928 and 2008 on the different stock markets. He found that three of the four American stock indices – the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, the New York Stock Exchange Composite, and the Dow Jones Composite Average – exhibited returns that were lower than average on days with eclipses. Furthermore, the larger the magnitude of the eclipse, the more likely the stock returns would be affected.
Here are a few more interesting financial superstitions around the world that might leave you bemused, tickled or even amazed!
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• Dead serious about baguettes
The French take their baguettes seriously and even have financial superstitions revolving around this iconic baked good. For example, you should never place bread upside down on the table of any French house because it will bring poverty and hunger to both the bread owner and the person receiving the bread!
And while most people around the world believe that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, the French are the exact opposite. Sales of lottery tickets always increase significantly on this day because the French opine that this day is luckier than usual.
• Deposit money to welcome more money, the Chinese way
You might have seen the long queues at cash deposit machines around Singapore the previous week on 4 February and wondered what the fuss was all about. Some folks even reported queueing for up to an hour at popular spots just to put money into their bank accounts! You can thank the long queues to Li Chun, a day that marks the beginning of spring on the Chinese calendar. Farmers in the past would celebrate the beginning of Li Chun with events offering worship to the gods to pray for a bountiful harvest in the year ahead. Today, that practice has evolved for the modern era – many believe that banking in money on the day of Li Chun while wearing a red top will help to grow their wealth.
• The rich get richer in Greece
If you’re thinking about buying your Greek friends a wallet or a purse, make sure to put a couple of coins in the gift before presenting it to them! They believe that money attracts more money and having an empty wallet, purse or bank account means that bad fortune will befall them. The Greek financiers and bankers should have thought of that before emptying their reserves and living beyond their means, seeing the current state of their economy now.
• Korean babies select their future
When Korean babies reach their hundredth day of existence, their parents throw a huge party to celebrate. During ancient times in Korea, the first 100 days after a baby’s birth is considered the most fragile period of the baby’s life. Passing the 100th-day mark means that the child has overcome the hardships associated with living. While modern medical technology has advanced to a stage where survivorship rates of babies are now close to 100 percent, Koreans still throw parties to celebrate this special day.
One of the fun rituals that the parents do during the party is to put three items – money, a length of string, and a pencil – in front of the baby. If the baby picks money, he or she will be rich. The string and pencil signifies long life and a wonderful academic record respectively. Recently, some parents have even been putting a golf ball and a microphone. It’s quite easy to guess what they stand for!
• It’s always more money in the Philippines
The Filipinos have a laundry list of superstitions revolving around wealth generation and depletion. For example, you should never pay off your debt at night because it will bring bad luck. Similarly, you should never borrow money on the first hour of the day, the first day of the week, the first week of the month, and the first month of the year because they believe that you will always be haunted by debts.
It’s not just about debts though. While we call pest controllers whenever we find a nest of black ants in the house, the Filipinos will be whooping in joy, as black ants are an omen of good fortune. When it comes to keeping money in their wallets, the Filipinos believe in arranging their bills from the largest to the smallest denomination, such that when they open their wallets, the first thing they see is the largest bill.