Universa Investments

Dave Collum's 2016 Year In Review - "And Then Things Got Really Weird..."

"Markets don’t have a purpose any more - they just reflect whatever central planners want them to. Why wouldn’t it lead to the biggest collapse? My strategy doesn’t require that I’m right about the likelihood of that scenario. Logic dictates to me that it’s inevitable..."

Nassim Taleb's Fund Made $1 Billion On Monday; This Is How The Other "Hedge" Funds Did

You can't say Nassim Taleb didn't warn you: the outspoken academic-philosopher, best known for his prediction that six sigma "fat tail", or black swan, events happen much more frequently than they should statistically (perhaps a main reason why there is no longer a market but a centrally-planned cesspool of academic intervention) just had a black swan land smack in the middle of the Universa hedge fund founded by ardent Ron Paul supporter Mark Spitznagel, and affiliated with Nassim Taleb. The result: a $1 billion payday, translating into a 20% YTD return, in a week when the VIX exploded from the teens to over 50, and which most other hedge funds would love to forget.

Meet "The Most Bearish Investment Manager You Will Find Today"

"...stocks are the side show of the world. They shouldn't matter that much. They matter too much. They're the realm of punters, the realm of hair-trigger traders... We are back to "a religious belief" that The Fed is our savior... the market doesn't owe you liquidity, thinking you'll get out is the height of naivete."

Mark Spitznagel Explains How To Make A Fortune (Or Go Broke)

"Don't fall for the trap of myopically following yesterday's winners. Protect yourself, keep your powder dry, and wait for a better day. Think more about getting rich in 2020 or beyond... The Fed has turned the entire investing population into zombies (with a gambling addiction, I might add) wandering aimlessly in search of any tiny extra return to ravenously consume... This has left stock markets as elevated and overvalued as they’ve been since the dot-com mania (and more than they were in 1929 and 2007), which history has shown will likely lead to significant declines ahead."

2014 Year In Review (Part 2): Will 2015 Be The Year It All Comes Tumbling Down?

Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."

"I’m tired of being outraged!"

"Bearish" Mark Spitznagel Profiting Strongly Since 2009, Warns "Only So Much Debt An Economy Can Take"

Mark Spitznagel, author of "Dao of Capital" and among Wall Street's most bearish investors, is (profitably) holding out for a disaster. Despite noting that "The Fed has taken it further than it has ever taken it before," NY Times reports that Spitznagel's fund Universa has profited strongly even as stocks hit record highs. Large pessimistic bets usually lose a lot of money when stocks are rising, but Universa is saying that its investment strategy has been able to produce consistent gains since then, including a 30% return last year. While ackowledging Fed policy is capable of driving stock prices higher, Spitznagel warns, it will ultimately be self-defeating, "there is only so much debt that an economy can take on."

Frontrunning: November 25

  • Ferguson in Flames (Reuters)
  • Ferguson Cop Told Grand Jury He Feared for His Life (BBG)
  • Sharpton: Grand Jury Announcement ‘An Absolute Blow’ (Daily Caller)
  • Gunshots echo as violence returns to Ferguson, protests across U.S. (Reuters)
  • BoJ members warned on costs of more easing (FT)
  • Hagel Exit Shows Obama Has Taken Power Away From Pentagon (BBG)
  • Ukraine leader, under pressure from West, pledges new government soon (Reuters)
  • Eurozone Stagnation Poses Major Risk to Global Growth, OECD Warns (WSJ)
  • ECB’s Coeure Says Officials Won’t Rush as They Debate All Assets (BBG)

Ron Paul: "Americans Must Choose Non-Interventionist Free Markets For Peace & Prosperity"

Mark Spitznagel: "Mises will ultimately be right yet again about the inevitable final collapse of the current asset boom brought about by credit expansion. The term “black swan” (the surprising, unforeseen event) used for bursting financial bubbles has been and will remain a misnomer - we can and, indeed, should expect such tumults to occur at some point as a consequence of massive central bank intervention and economic distortion."

Ron Paul: "As to the unwinding of this mess, I’m convinced that when the current expansion ends it will be abrupt, gigantic, and worldwide. The 43-year expansion of Fed credit and debt, delivered to us by a fiat dollar standard, and held together artificially by an undeserved trust will end badly."

Frontrunning: June 6

  • Canada Aims to Sell Its Oil Beyond U.S (WSJ)
  • ECB Unanimity May Prove Fleeting (WSJ)
  • Chinese military spending exceeds $145 billion, drones advanced: U.S. (Reuters)
  • France to sell 10 warships to Russia next? BNP Executive Firings Sought by Top New York Bank Regulator Amid Probe (BBG)
  • Vodafone says governments have direct access to eavesdrop in some countries (Reuters)
  • Home Price Gains of 20% Vanish as Hottest Markets Cool (BBG)
  • G-7 Heads Warn Moscow Before Facing Putin (WSJ)
  • Barclays Fine Spurs U.K. Scrutiny of Derivatives Conflict (BBG)
  • "Or Costs" - Obama Says Putin Running Out of Time Over Ukraine (BBG)
  • Banca Monte Paschi Falls After Offering New Stock at 35.5% Discount (BBG)

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."

Mark Spitznagel On Confusing Means With Ends

Amid all of this messy thinking we miss the simple truth behind our material wealth: It has been achieved through the accumulation, by us and inherited from our forefathers, of a stock of highly configured and embedded tools that make human effort more effective and things possible that never were before. And we turn our backs on this truth when we turn more and more of these tools over to government bureaucrats. Profits are but an intermediate end of capital investment. Its ultimate end, in fact, is the material progression of our civilization. How easily we lose sight of this, at our and our progeny's peril. We all want more economic growth, but we ignore the means to get there: the onerous choices and commitments made along the round-about path to those ends. We even confuse the means with the ends.

Mark Spitznagel On Ron Paul's Grand Shi Strategy

To some, Paul’s stubborn persistence in the campaign has been just that: a stubborn unwillingness to lie down and die despite evidence of sure defeat. But what they have missed is a common misperception of a subtle yet powerful age-old strategy at play - the archetypal shi (pronounced “sure”) strategy expounded and employed by Chinese philosophers and military strategists for thousands of years. More than anything else, we can see Paul’s greatest shi advantage in his outsized support among the young. In this society of immediate gratification and winning right now at all cost we need to ask ourselves: why should future elections and platforms matter so much less than the current ones? There are powerful cognitive biases at work - among them the temporal myopia of hyperbolic discounting, or excessively undervaluing the future, while focusing on the nearer term - which make fuzzy in our minds the importance of victories in the years ahead (a view that is promulgated by the media). The ultimate war is against intrusive, burgeoning government, in the ongoing insurgencies of the battles yet to come—Ron Paul’s grand shi strategy.

Mark Spitznagel: The Austrians And The Swan - Birds Of A Different Feather

What is a black swan event, or tail event, in the stock market?

- It depends on who’s asking.

- To those familiar with Austrian capital theory, the impending U.S. stock market plunge (of even well over 40%)—like pretty much all that came before in the past century—will certainly  not be a Black Swan, nor even a tail event.
- Nonetheless, the black swan notion is paramount—in perception: Market participants’ failure to expect a perfectly expected event—that is, they price in only Anglo swans despite the  Viennese bird lurking conspicuously in the weeds—much like what is happening today, brings tremendous opportunity.

From Atlas To Capital - Everyone Is Shrugging

Today, Rand’s fictional world has seemingly become a reality – endless bailouts and economic stimulus for the unproductive at the expense of the most productive, and calls for additional taxation on capital investment. The shrug of Rand’s heroic entrepreneurs is to be found today within the tangled ciphers of corporate and government balance sheets. The US Federal Reserve has added more than $2 trillion to the base money supply since 2008 – an incredible and unprecedented number that is basically a gift to banks intended to cover their deep losses and spur lending and investment. Instead, as banks continue their enormous deleveraging, almost all of their new money remains at the Fed in the form of excess reserves. Corporations, moreover, are holding the largest amounts of cash, relative to assets and net worth, ever recorded. And yet, despite what pundits claim about strong balance sheets, firms’ debt levels, relative to assets and net worth, also remain near record-high levels. Hoarded cash is king. The velocity of money (the frequency at which money is spent, or GDP relative to base money) continues to plunge to historic lows. No wonder monetary policy has had so little impact. Capital, the engine of economic growth, sits idle – shrugging everywhere.