Ever tried predicting the future with Alphabet Soup? It’s easy. You just pick up an amorphous piece of pasta, dunk it in the hot liquid and – Hey Presto! – the emerging letter tells you what’s going to happen in the next few months. Anyone can play and lots of people do, including leading economists and captains of industry. Some reckon it will be the top-ranking game this Christmas. It certainly beats econometric analysis for fun.
Still not convinced you want to play? Well here’s a simple example to encourage you. Take the letter ‘V’. Spot that in your soup and it means the recession will be deep, but short-lasting, with a steep and symmetrical recovery. If it’s ‘L’ you happen upon, I’d put it back if I were you and leave it to someone else. It’s like the electrocardiogram stopping: meaning, there won’t be any recovery for several years and your business will probably die.
Luckily, ‘L’ is a rare letter. More likely, you’ll hear of people coming up with a ‘W’. Don’t listen to them. They’re reheating last month’s soup in the hope of sounding awfully wise. No one in the swim thinks ‘W’ is going to be the winning letter any more. Some claim to have seen a ‘VW’: either they’re indecisive, or they’ve been spending too much time in a camper van recently. Then there are the clever clogs. They believe the future can be predicted with mathematical precision, and they’ve got the formula to prove it. It’s √. We’ll sort of. The trouble is the look of the square root symbol, which is what they’re on about, depends on the font you use. The plateau bar could be anywhere along an indefinite length of upstroke. So it’s no help to anyone. As I say, clever clogs.
However, the most inscrutable, and probably unbeatable, combination to date is the so-called LUV pattern. Apparently it means: West Europe L-shaped, US U-shaped and BRIC V-shaped. But we only have Sir Martin Sorrell’s word for that, because he’s the only one who’s seen that shape so far (although he has confessed he got the idea from Reuters). Sorrell is a past-master at the Alphabet Soup game. During the last recession, he was the principal backer of the U-shape. When recovery stalled, he hedged his bets a bit and came up with the bath theory, later the corrugated bath theory. Which is simply not playing the game.
Still, we’ all know after Christmas who’s right, won’t we?