From Bench to Benchmark: Jose Canseco Is Twitter’s Favorite Financial Analyst

Former Major Leaguer Jose Canseco has developed a minor cult following on Twitter for his financial market predictions. Photo Illustration: Rob Alcaraz/The Wall Street Journal; Photo: Getty Images (Canseco)

Wall Street was caught off guard by this year’s big oil rally. The spread of negative interest rates has befuddled economists. Most polls failed to predict Brexit.

Into this vacuum slipped a muscle-bound former baseball outfielder who exposed baseball’s rampant steroid use and nearly blew off his middle finger with a handgun. Jose Canseco, who slugged his way through the major leagues, has now developed a cult following after some of his contrarian predictions about financial markets came true.

ENLARGE

“He’s been pretty much spot on with the macro picture,” said James Mark II. The San Antonio-based stock and commodities trader first noticed Mr. Canseco’s tweets in February, after the ballplayer correctly predicted a rally in gold when many analysts were bearish.

“I read it and I was like ‘Hmm, we agree’ ” Mr. Mark added. Now he checks Mr. Canseco’s Twitter TWTR -0.11 % page regularly to view the latest prognostications.

When political pundits and London bookies confidently predicted that Britain would vote to remain in the European Union, the 1988 Most Valuable Player for the Oakland A’s was already warning of the damage Brexit was going to bring.

“Make no mistake Brexit will crater the UK into recession and the pound will do a 25% faceplant. Capital will flee like its pants are on fire,” he tweeted two days before the referendum. The pound fell by about 15% against the dollar after the vote, falling short of his prediction, but he got the gist of it.

Mr. Canseco also warned in February of a housing-market bubble in Vancouver. This month, the Canadian city began to impose a new tax on foreign buyers in an effort to curb prices.

More recently, Mr. Canseco has been stressed out over the Bank of Japan 8301 0.28 % ’s ultraloose monetary policy. “Kuroda-San buddy u are drying up your short term money market - will be lehmanish crises and banks won’t be able to raise capital will fail,” he tweeted recently.

He also penned a haiku that compared Haruhiko Kuroda, head of Japan’s central bank, to the famed Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises.

Negative Interest

Next helicopter money

Kuroda Von Mise

Followers don’t seem put off that Mr. Canseco copped to using banned steroids during his playing days, which likely pumped up his athletic performance, or by his lack of formal financial training and poor personal investment record. Mr. Canseco didn’t attend college but said on Twitter, “I have real world honorary degrees in chemistry and animal management.”

After retiring from baseball in 2002, Mr. Canseco, now 52, pursued mixed martial arts and appeared on Donald Trump’s reality show “Celebrity Apprentice.” He filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in 2012, claiming nearly $1.7 million in liabilities and less than $21,000 in assets.

“I went through more money than many small countries,” he tweeted this year.

Moneybeat

Jose Canseco Is Writing Poems About the Bank of Japan

Mr. Canseco, through his manager, declined to comment for this article without financial compensation.

While his tweets don’t mention a newsletter or any other venue to promote his ideas beyond Twitter, his 510,000 followers give him a substantial platform to air his views.

Mr. Canseco touches on a variety of other topics when he isn’t skewering powerful central bankers. He has lobbied on Twitter for a seat on the Supreme Court and a spot on the reality TV show “Survivor.” He tweets “hugs” to those he thinks are in need of a little affection: “Hug for u Great Britain” he tweeted after the U.K.’s Brexit referendum.

M.M. Ali, a Toronto-based finance manager for a private health-care company who has followed Mr. Canseco on Twitter for years, was initially confused by Mr. Canseco’s Bank of Japan tweets. Then he did his own research into the difficulties the central bank has had in reviving the economy.

“I remember thinking at the time that he was kind of bang on with what was happening,” Mr. Ali said. He tweeted back: “Jose Canseco is schooling us all right now.”

That’s hardly the consensus. Mr. Canseco’s financial musings are routinely mocked online. “Listen to this man! He blew off a finger!” one Twitter poster jeered.

To the delight of his detractors, the rally in gold hasn’t quite met the 20% surge he envisioned, and his prediction that the Bank of Japan would cut rates again in July never happened.

Others have accused him of relying on someone with a background in economics to shape his tweets.

“He’s either honed up on his finance skills or has a ghostwriter,” said Marc Gale, a Toronto Blue Jays fan and owner of a cleaning company who remembers the slugger’s 1998 season with the team. Though Mr. Gale thinks that the tweets are written in “Jose-style,” featuring characteristic misspellings and a lack of punctuation, he doubts Mr. Canseco is a financial expert.

“It definitely has an odor behind it,” he said.

Jose Melendez, Mr. Canseco’s manager, said in an email that the baseball player writes his own tweets. “Not many know how smart he is,” Mr. Melendez said.

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Mr. Canseco detailed his own steroid use and that of other ballplayers in his 2005 book “Juiced,” and that has led some to see him as a truthsayer who is more honest than highly paid financial analysts. These fans tweet back at him with the hashtag: #Canseconomics.

Mr. Mark, the Texas commodities trader, said he thinks Wall Street analysts are “incredibly biased.”

“I totally block those guys out,” Mr. Mark said. “I pay attention to him,” referring to Mr. Canseco.

Supporters say his use of acronyms like NIRP, for negative interest rate policy, and heloYen, a reference to “helicopter money,” slang that describes monetary stimulus, attest to his fluency in the subject matter.

“It’s not just the jargon but the fact that he’s able to deploy it in the manner that it’s meant to be used,” said Vishal Trivedi, who works in municipal finance in Oakland, Calif., has a degree in economics and follows tweets from Mr. Canseco. “I think it shows he’s thought about these topics, he has a cohesive opinion.”

Scott Cameron, a former economic adviser for Canada’s parliamentary budget office, is among those who say Mr. Canseco seems more informed than they would have imagined.

“You can tell when someone is corking their bat with the first Google hit, and he just seems to have a level of sophistication beyond that,” he said. “I’d put him on par with a 24-hour news pundit called up to balance a panel.”

TV viewers may have to wait. News outlets including Bloomberg Television, CNBC and Yahoo Finance have invited Mr. Canseco over Twitter to talk about markets. He tweeted back that he wants to be paid for any appearance. To Yahoo Finance, he asked for two first-class tickets, a hotel room with breakfast included and $10,000.

“Time is money,” he wrote.

Write to Chelsey Dulaney at Chelsey.Dulaney@wsj.com

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