Black Swan

Guest Post: The Resilience And Fragility Of The Status Quo

The odds of some instability erupting globally in 2013-14 seem high, but what the trigger might be remains unknown. The fragility and vulnerability of systems pushed to extremes are like sandpiles: it doesn't really matter which grains finally trigger the cascade; the system's rising instability is the causal factor. Where does this put us? If the ultimate crisis is another decade away, we might as well enjoy what we can in the meantime and assemble the pieces of a semi-sustainable life: income streams that we own/control, a very low cost of living, and property in areas that are universally desirable, i.e. they have decent weather, surface supplies of water, concentrations of intellectual and financial capital, and ideally, a functioning local government that isn’t hopelessly corrupted by vested interests. Any disadvantages in these resources can be offset by a solid network of friends, family, associates, business contacts, etc., i.e. social capital. I think it is safe to assume the promises of Social Security, Medicare and pensions will be chipped away by one force or another (inflation, taxation, “austerity,” etc.) and so those who have written these out of their own personal expectations will be psychologically primed for self-reliance embedded in local support networks.

Guest Post: The Perils Of Underestimating Complexity And Mispricing Risk

"If you’re rich you get a bailout. If you’re poor you get a handout. And if you’re middle class you get left out." That's not a sustainable way to run the system, exclaims investment strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald. A cancer at the core of our current economy is the magical thinking, "no pain, all gain" philosophy, pursued by those running it. They are doing all they can to remove the consequences of failure from the system -- blind to failure's essential 'waste-clearing' function in a healthy free market. Without the discipline of Darwinism, the individual actors in the system make all sorts of malinvestments that would never make sense in an efficient marketplace. But since the losses from these inane pursuits are socialized, there's no incentive to stop making them. At least, up until the point where the class whose back is burdened with paying for the socialized messes finally breaks.

Phoenix Capital Research's picture

 

The US is clearly heading into another recession in the context of a larger depression. And it’s doing this while in the worst economic shape in its post-WWII history. We’ve never once entered a recession when the average duration of unemployment is at an all time high, industrial production has failed to break above its previous peak, and food stamp usage is at a record high. We’ve never done this.

Deep Fried Black Swan Lands As China Admits It Has A Food Inflation Problem, Releases Corn, Rice From Reserves

Last week we wrote an article that to many was anathema: namely an explanation why everyone is deluding themselves in their expectation that the PBOC would ease, soft, hard, or just right landing notwithstanding. The reason? The threat that food inflation is about to read its ugly head which is "Why The Fate Of The Global Equity Rally May Rest In The Hands Of Soybeans." This was merely a continuation of our observations from a month ago that as a result of the Black Swan being "deep fried" in 2012, that the threat of food inflation will keep key BRIC central banks in check for a long time. As of today the threat has become fact, because as China Daily reports "China will release corn and rice from state reserves to help tame inflation and reduce imports as the worst US drought in half a century pushes corn prices to global records, creating fears of a world food crisis...The release may prompt Chinese importers to cancel shipments in the near term and take some pressure off international corn prices, which set a new all-time high on Friday as the US government slashed its estimate of the size of the crop in the world's top grain exporter." Sure, as every other short-termist measure the world over, it may help with prices in the short-term, but will merely expose China, and thus everyone, to the threat of a much greater price spike in the future. Because just as the strategic petroleum reserve release did nothing to help gas prices, nor the short selling ban in the US and Europe did anything to help the underlying broken financial system, so this will merely force the local population to scramble and ration whatever food they can get asap, now that the government has admitted there is, indeed, a food inflationary problem.

Chart Of The Day: Schrödinger (Dis)Inflation

As reported on Wednesday night, China's economy is contracting faster than anyone expected. As further reported last night, China loan creation at 540.1 billion yuan was far below economist estimates of 700 billion. In other words: the world's marginal economy is starting to crack. So the PBOC has no choice but to ease right? Wrong. As we showed yesterday, the Chinese central bank has one mandate above all: food price stability, or else suffer the consequences of "1+ billion people instability." And as the USDA report just confirmed, Soybean is going nowhere but up. Which in turn means Chinese food inflation, which makes up 30% of the headline CPI (unlike America's 7.8%) is set to follow. Still hoping and praying that the PBOC will ease even as the deep fried black swan we warned about 2 weeks ago is rapidly flapping its wings toward Beijing? Hope and pray harder.

RickAckerman's picture

Anyone betting that the global financial system will continue to muddle along indefinitely deserves to reap the whirlwind that’s coming.  As the rest of us well know, the international banking system is being kept afloat solely by political lies, stupidity, corruption, greed and, most of all, egregiously misplaced confidence. It would seem to be only a matter of time before the rotted timbers of this belief system give way.  But what will be the catalyst?  The possibility or even likelihood that the financial system will be toppled by some event no one was expecting was an implicit theme of Nassim Taleb’s widely read 2004 book.

670 Million People In India Without Power As Electric Grid Fails

Two weeks ago we touched upon the possibility that the US climatic deep fried black swan could soon stretch to India where the Monsoon season was 22% below normal conditions for this time of year. Today India is the locus of another flightless bird sighting following an epic powergrid meltdown which left half of its 1.2 billion people without power on Tuesday "as the grids covering a dozen states broke down, the second major blackout in as many days and an embarrassment for the government as it struggles to revive economic growth... More than a dozen states with a total population of 670 million people were without power, with the lights out even at major hospitals in Kolkata." Indicatively this is the same as every man, woman and child in America having no electricity. Twice over."Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the deserts of Rajasthan, the power cut was the worst to hit India in more than a decade. Trains were stranded in Kolkata and Delhi and thousands of people poured out of the sweltering capital's modern metro system when it ground to a halt at lunchtime. Office buildings switched to diesel generators and traffic jammed the roads." Hopefully, two events in a row don't confirm a trend. Although if indeed systemic, and if suddenly the Indian power infrastructure is unable to handle the local drought-related conditions, thus serving as a natural cap on economic expansion, all bets may be off as to the unlimited upside potential capacity of the BRICs.

Deep Fried Black Swan Goes Global As Drought Spreads From US To Asia, And Now To Southern Europe

The US drought, which as previously noted, is the worst in decades, has already caused corn prices to hit a record, and soy to soar. And as we first reported last week, and subsequently Bloomberg also caught, Asia could well be next to suffer soaring food prices next as "the monsoon season, which is critical for that country’s agricultural production, is 22% below normal conditions for the year." In fact, if there is one thing preventing the PBOC from engaging in full blown easing, it is precisely the threat that just as it floods the market with excess CNY, that the supply of food will collapse causing widespread riots and chaos a la Arab Spring 2011. And now, just to make sure that the threat of full out global food crisis is complete, and the deep fried black swan has truly gone global, we find that a heat wave in Southern Europe is causing the corn crops to wither in a region that is responsible for 16% of global exports.

The Russian Default Scenario As Script For Europe's Next Steps

Russia and the southeast Asian countries are analogs for Greece, Spain, and Cyprus, with no particular association between their references within the timeline.  The timeline runs through the Russian pain; things begin to turn around after the timeline ends. This is meant to serve as a reference point: In retrospect it was clear throughout the late-90s that Russia would default on its debt and spark financial pandemonium, yet there were cheers at many of the fake-out "solution" pivot points.  The Russian issues were structural and therefore immune to halfhearted solutions--the Euro Crisis is no different.  This timeline analog serves as a guide to illustrate to what extent world leaders can delay the inevitable and just how significant "black swan event" probabilities are in times of structural crisis.  It seems that the next step in the unfolding Euro Crisis is for sovereigns to begin to default on their loan payments.  To that effect, Greece must pay its next round of bond redemptions on August 20, and over the weekend the IMF stated that they are suspending Greece's future aid tranches due to lack of reform.  August 20 might be the most important day of the entire summer and very well could turn into the credit event that breaks the camel's back.

As The US Drought Spreads To India, Will The Black Swan Be Deep Fried

By now it should be more than clear that the entire hope-based, short-squeeze driven, algo-mediated rally is the result of the last traces of hope: with the US economy openly in free-fall mode, housing supported only by once again increasing shadow inventory (and even that myth is starting to falter following today's existing home sales update), corporate profits just barely holding in as a result of the last possible cuts into the bone via personnel terminations now that YoY revenue numbers have once again sloped lower and the corporate growth cycle has turned, there is little sustaining the market aside from the mysterious seller of endless vol, which could be well, anyone, and some quiet prayer that China may step in and once again, like back in 2009, be the marginal economic dynamo that restarts the global economy one more time. It would do that in the conventional way, of course: by easing as much as it possibly can. There is, however, one problem with this: food prices. As everyone knows the product the PBOC pays more attention to than anything else is food: pork, soy, corn, etc., and particularly food prices. Because if there is one thing that can cause social upheavals in the world's most populous country, it is a rerun of the spring of 2011 when as a result of global easing, we saw not only the Arab Spring, but violent flare ups throughout China. Which brings us to today's topic: black swans. Deep fried black swans.  As UBS explains the record drought that has gripped America may well have far-reaching implications beyond just the price of corn in the US. If, indeed, adverse US climatic conditions spread, and it appears they already have as "the monsoon season, which is critical for that country’s agricultural production, is 22% below normal conditions for the year" it means that Asian food prices will broadly be the next commodity sector to go sky high, and with that kill any hope of either an RRR cut, or an outright reduction in the PBOC's Interest Rate.

Food Price Spike Dead Ahead: US Cuts Corn Crop Forecast By 12% As 56% Of America Is Under Drought Conditions

Who knew the next black swan would be deep fried? The biggest piece of imminent food inflation news over the past months, coupled with what is shaping up to be another record hot summer (for the best tracking of real-time electricity consumption primarily for cooling news we recommend the following PJM RT tracker of power load), has been the collapse in the corn harvest due to the worst drought since 1988 as 56% of America is in drought conditions. Today, the US just added some burning oil to the popcorn by cutting the corn-crop forecast by 12% to 13 billion bushels on expectations of a 13.5 billion harvest. Then again, who needs corn, when you can have cake?

The Dark (Pool) Truth About What Really Goes On In The Stock Market: Part 4

The Island-Renaissance fusion was a vision of the future in which high-speed AI-guided robots would operate on lightning-fast electronic pools, controlling the daily ebb and flow of the market. The AI Bots poured their valuable liquidity into Island, which, in turn, made it possible for the Bots to operate at high frequencies. They fed off one another, creating a virtuous cycle that would become un- stoppable. Little-known outfits such as Timber Hill, Tradebot, RGM, and Getco would soon start trading on Island, forming the emergent ganglia of a new space-age trading organism driven by machines. Tricked-out artificial intelligence systems designed to scope out hid- den pockets in the market where they could ply their trades powered many of these systems. In the process, the very structure of how the U.S. stock market worked would shift to meet the endless needs of the Bots. The human middlemen, though they didn’t know it, were being phased out, doomed as dinosaurs. And the machines were breeding more machines in an endless cycle of innovation, as programmers pushed the boundaries of speed more ruthlessly than Olympic sprinters. Trading algorithms would mutate, grow, and evolve, feeding off one another like evolving species in a vast and growing digital pool.

Reservations Please: Merkel, Party Of "Nein"

There are those that wait and hope and pray that there will be Divine Intervention. They cling to the belief that Germany, in the end, will back down and retreat and agree to bail everyone out. Germany’s GDP is only $3.2 trillion and this expectation, believed in by more than a few, is not only ridiculous in my opinion but a mathematical impossibility. If you consider the current EFSF program and that $300 billion has already been used for Greece, Ireland and Portugal and that this new assistance program for Spain will take it up to $425 billion you begin to get some sense of the enormity of the problem. The U.S. equivalent then for the total EFSF would be $4.318 trillion or 30.4% of America’s total GDP which would swamp our nation.  This is why when I listen to Frau Merkel say “Nein;” I believe her! It is the twentieth Summit. I predict it will be the twentieth time that almost nothing is accomplished. The beggars want to be the choosers and Germany and the richer nations will hardly allow for that.