The Importance of Being Certain

 | Jan 03, 2013 | 2:45 PM EST  | Comments
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If you aren't a regular observer of stocks, if you are perhaps someone who lurks in Congress, then you don't understand the importance of certainty to the investing process.

If you want living proof of the need for certainty, look no further than Transocean (RIG), which agreed to pay a $1.4 billion fine today for its role in the Gulf oil spill.

I am sure that many people might say that's a huge amount -- devastating even -- particularly because when the spill first occurred it was universally held that Transocean wouldn't be held liable. I know that I was lambasted when I said that RIG was not getting off without some penalty.

But, put simply, until today we didn't know what size check Transocean would have to write. Frankly, if it had been double that amount I think the stock would still be up today because it removed the company's open-ended exposure to this matter.

I point this out because many people were astounded yesterday that the market could rally so much on a tax hike for the wealthy and lots of other negatives that involved avoiding the fiscal cliff. I have been saying for months that any deal, even a bad one, would bring about a rally because of the certainty it would give to those trying to figure out how much to save, how much to invest and how much to commit.

Well, most people I have talked to said we got a bad deal -- personally, I think it could have been much worse. And the result? A rising market.

Certainty -- whether it comes from a big fine from the Justice Department or a big tax increase from Congress -- allows investors to assess, to navigate, to plan.

We got it in Transocean. We got it in our paychecks.

The moves make sense, as long as you recognize that certainty is the holy grail of capital commitment.

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