Black Swan

The Market Has Never Been More Fearful Of An Extreme Event

"There's something going on in derivatives land," is the warning from ADM's Andy Ash and as Paul Mylchreest notes the relationship between VIX and SKEW suggests the options market is pricing in the possibility of a major market event. The process enables professionals to maintain the illusion of calmness in VIX while hedging their positions (as they attempt to unwind as we have shown). Whether this 'event' is a crash or melt-up is historically unclear but given the taper and the trend of the last few years, we suspect the former more likely that the latter.

"Liquidity Is Becoming A Serious Issue" As Japan's Bond Market Death Goes Global

While we noted last week the death of the Japanese bond market as government intervention has killed the largest bond market in the world; it is now becoming increasingly clear that the dearth of trading volumes is not only spreading to equity markets but also to all major global markets as investors rotate to derivatives in order to find any liquidity. Central planners removal of increasing amounts of assets from the capital markets (bonds and now we find out stocks), thus reducing collateral availability, leaves traders lamenting "liquidity is becoming a serious issue." While there are 'trade-less' sessions now in Japanese bonds, the lack of liquidity is becoming a growing problem in US Treasuries (where the Fed owns 1/3rd of the market) and Europe where as JPMorgan warns, "some of this liquidity may be more superficial than really deep." The instability this lack of liquidity creates is extremely worrisome and likely another reason the Fed wants to Taper asap as DoubleLine warns, this is "the sort of thing that rears its ugly head when it is least welcome -- when it’s the greatest problem."

Bronze Swan Lands: Goldman Explains How The China Commodity Unwind Will Happen

Over a year ago we were the first to bring the topic of China's shadow banking system's problematic rehypothecation issues to the general trading public. In "The Bronze Swan Arrives: Is The End Of Copper Financing China's "Lehman Event"?" we explained how the Chinese commodity financing deals (CCFDs) worked and how they would inevitably be a systemic event for the nation so dependent on the shadow banking system for its credit (and its "growth"). The day has arrived when the Bronze Swan is landing (and it's unlikely to be soft). As we have discussed recently, the probe into 'missing' collateral (or multiple-used collateral) at China's Qingdao warehouse is a major problem... and now Goldman confirms, the Qingdao situation likely to continue ongoing CCFD unwind and has the potential to leave foreign banks with undercollateralized loans and/or losses.

Spitznagel & Taleb On Inequality, Free Markets, & Inevitable Crashes

"We live in an economic age where we’ve simply lost our ability to look at the world as potentially self-organizing (and of spontaneous order - whereby order naturally emerges from bottom-up individual interactions when things are left alone rather than from top-down control), though we suspect we’ll be reminded of it again sooner rather than later. Perhaps our takeaway from economic crises will finally be different the next time around. By all means, let’s brainstorm and see if there are ways to alleviate problems and provide relief to the suffering. But any proposal that involves using coercion on unwilling citizens should be off the table. Anything else is a slippery slope to what we have today - these serial crises."

Groupthink Or Black Swan Rising? Not A Single 'Economist' Expects An Economic Downturn

This doesn't happen very often. Marketwatch reports that Jim Bianco points out in a recent market comment that the 67 economists taking part in a regular Bloomberg survey have a unanimous forecast regarding treasury bond yields: they will be higher 6 months from now... and a separate poll of economists recently showed that exactly zero expect the economy to contract. This is an astonishing degree of consensus thinking, but it perfectly mirrors the complacency we see in stock market sentiment and positioning data. The probability that such a unanimous view will turn out to be correct is traditionally extremely low. The economy is likely resting on a much weaker foundation than is generally believed. This is not least the result of massive monetary pumping and deficit spending, both of which tend to severely weaken the economy on a structural level, even though they can create a temporary illusion of 'growth'.

What Oil War Premium?

Central bank's ongoing and so-far-successful efforts to crush short-term volatility and encourage hapless individuals into the world's nominally rising stock markets has had consequences. Inequalities abound (rich vs poor, corporate profits vs capex/jobs, bond yields vs growth hopes) but nowhere else is this more evident - given the ever-increasing crescendo of the drum-beat of war around the world - than in oil price volatility. As the chart below shows... oil price volatility is at its lowest in 21 years. We can't help but be reminded of Taleb's priceless phrase that "there is no freedom without noise - and no stability without volatility."

Did Cliff Asness Just Blame Zero Hedge For Starting The Anti-HFT Movement?

Five years ago, we were the first to bring the world's attention to the staggering profitability of several firms that engaged in 'high frequency' trading that presented themselves as 'liquidity providers' and suggested (in our ever so humble way) that mark liquidity was in fact shrinking and this could lead to a 'black swan of black swans' long before the flash crash was even dreamed of. Fast forwarding to today, after hundreds of articles, not only is the mainstream "getting it" but such behemoths as Cliff Asness - who happens to run one of the world's biggest quant funds - are forced to pen a WSJ op-ed to explain it's all a fallacy and blame a lowly blogger (or digital dickweed) for starting all this naysaying five years ago.

RIP - The Truman Show of Bubble Finance, 1987-2014

Seth Klarman recently remarked:

"All the Trumans – the economists, fund managers, traders, market pundits –know at some level that the environment in which they operate is not what it seems on the surface…. But the zeitgeist is so damn pleasant, the days so resplendent, the mood so euphoric, the returns so irresistible, that no one wants it to end."

Klarman is here referring to the waning days of this third and greatest financial bubble of this century. But David Stockman's take is that the crack-up boom now nearing its dénouement marks not merely the season finale of still another Fed-induced cycle of financial asset inflation, but, in fact, portends the demise of an entire era of bubble finance.

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2014 Outlook: Pandora's Box

As we begin 2014, it is important to recognize the levels of INSANITY currently existent in the world  enabling us to understand the apocryphal nature of the times we live in and prepare ourselves to meet the challenges it represents.  The world is leveraged to an extent that has never before seen in history! Debt now masquerades as NOMINAL growth and REAL growth has ceased.  Headline economic reports are now nothing more than POLITICALLY CORRECT HOAXES to FOOL the public at large and mask the betrayal of the public by the leaders who hold the reins of power.  ECONOMIC Stagnation emerged after the 2008 Global financial crisis and in real terms has NEVER ENDED!
 

Bitcoin Surges To New USD Record High (+100% In 7 Days)

A week after spiking above $900, before dropping 50% in the following 48 hours amid last week's Senate hearings, Bitcoin has recovered the losses (i.e. doubled) and is now trading at record high levels against the USD - $930on Mt.Gox. Notably, in China, Bitcoin remains well off its record highs (5200 vs 6989 highs).

Taleb Blasts Bernanke & Greenspan, Warns "Debt Raises The Risk Of Catastrophe"

"Debt increases tail-risk," warns anti-fragility expert Nassim Taleb, "whether it's personal, corporate, or governmental." A rise in debt, he warns, implies nothing less than a rise in "the risk of catastrophe," and Taleb chides,  governments "should be focused in risk-management... instead of creating these risks." This brief Bloomberg TV clip cuts to the chase as the normally circumlocutory Taleb unloads on the perils of central banks, "Mr. Greenspan created tail risk by eliminating the business cycle," and since then tail-risks have accumulated with debt the "number one creator of these risks." In a fascinating phrase, Taleb notes, "corporate debt is benign," since in failure it turns into equity, "but government debt is another matter... for it turns into inflation or worse invasion..."