Eric T. Miller, the longtime chief strategist for Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette who called the stock-market bottom in 1982 and became a go-to analyst of the bull market that followed, has died. He was 85.
He died on Aug. 29 at his home in Carmel, California, his wife, Susan Miller, said yesterday in an interview. The cause was complications from a brain tumor.
As chief investment officer at the New York-based firm that turned research from a backwater into a premier Wall Street product, Miller synthesized DLJ’s company and industry reports, combined them with economic and political forecasts and devised market strategies. His written commentary, widely followed by investors, was titled “Random Gleanings.”
“At a time when the default mentality on Wall Street was rapidly morphing into ‘get-the-deal-done, no-matter-what’, Eric stood out for his for his thoughtfulness, independent-mindedness and integrity,” Thomas Brown, chief executive officer at Second Curve Capital LLC, wrote last week on bankstocks.com, the website he founded and to which Miller occasionally contributed.
“He was what I think of as the ultimate anti-dogmatist: he understood that it wasn’t so much his opinion on an investment issue that mattered, but how that opinion was arrived at,” wrote Brown, who is also a Bloomberg contributing editor.
Miller was chief investment strategist from 1979 to 1998 at DLJ, after serving in that capacity for Oppenheimer Capital Corp. His DLJ tenure coincided with two U.S. recessions from 1980 through 1982 followed by the start, on Aug. 13, 1982, of what’s widely considered the greatest bull market in history, lasting into the 21st century.
Miller was among the market strategists who saw the turn coming. On June 15, 1982, he was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “We continue to think that most stocks have seen their lows.”
In “Anatomy of the Bear: Lessons from Wall Street’s Four Great Bottoms” (2007), author Russell Napier, a strategist at CLSA Ltd., cited that Miller call as one example of why “it is a myth that bulls are extinct at the bottom of a bear market.”
From then on, Miller was regularly quoted in articles on the euphoria and fear that comes with a raging and long-running bull market.
“No matter how well you have done, there’s constant pressure on what the market will do tomorrow,” he was quoted as saying in a March 1986 Chicago Tribune article. “It’s difficult when it travels a distance in three or four months that it normally travels in two or three years. The constant question I’m asked is whether it can go further.”
Eleven months later, he was quoted in the Miami Herald saying, “Investors should be careful not to chase stocks that have moved up sharply. The market is in an advanced, speculative stage.” Eight months after that, on Oct. 19, 1987, came the market crash known as Black Monday.
According to a 1985 article in the Miami Herald, Miller said he regularly listed things that could go right for the market -- inflation remaining low or oil prices dropping -- and things that could go wrong, such as trade wars or rising interest rates. He then assigned probability percentages to each contingency to come up with an actionable forecast.
Eric Thomas Miller was born on April 26, 1928, in Bronxville, New York, the son of James D. and Helen Miller. His father was an accountant and served as mayor of Bronxville.
He graduated from Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1950, then served in Korea with the U.S. Marine Corps. He did graduate studies in business administration at New York University but didn’t complete his master’s degree, his wife said.
He began his career in 1955 at New York Trust Co., a predecessor of Chemical Bank. He spent 13 years at Dominick & Dominick Inc., serving as head of investments and director of research, then became chief investment strategist at Oppenheimer Capital, a unit of New York-based Oppenheimer & Co.
Miller worked at DLJ’s Manhattan headquarters until 1995, when he and his wife moved to California. He stepped down as chief investment officer in 1998, remaining until 2002 as an adviser to DLJ and then to Credit Suisse Group, which bought DLJ in 2000.
Along with his wife of 33 years, survivors include his first wife, Eileen Stuhlreyer, and the three children they had together, Kathy Beinfield, Eric J. Miller and Carolyn Bednarz; a brother, Don; 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.