"The Universe Is Under No Obligation To Make Sense To You..."

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Simon Black via SovereignMan.com,

In 1999 my colleague Tim Price had front row seats to the first Internet bubble.

He tells a great story about being a private client portfolio manager at Merrill Lynch in London at the time, and describes how clients were clamoring to buy technology stocks.

‘Giddy’ doesn’t really do the mania justice. ‘Insane’ comes closer to describing the popular mood.

James Glassman and Kevin Hassett had just published a book, Dow 36,000 (the title speaks for itself), and Merrill Lynch thought it fitting to give a copy to every single person on staff.

The NASDAQ stock index, which was heavily comprised of the technology companies that everyone loved so much, consistently hit fresh all-time highs. It was practically a daily occurrence.

Stock valuations soared; companies that lost grotesque amounts of money were “worth” billions of dollars simply because investors no longer cared about conventional metrics like profit.

Warren Buffett blasted this “irrational exuberance” and wrote that “a bubble market has allowed the creation of bubble companies– entities designed more with an eye to making money off investors rather than for them. . .”

But Buffett was dismissed as a foolish old man.

1999/2000 was also when investment guru Jim Cramer told everyone to buy incredibly expensive tech stocks at all-time highs– like Digital Island, 724 Solutions, and Exodus Communications.

(If you haven’t heard of any of those companies, it’s because they all spectacularly flamed out after losing billions of dollars of their investors’ capital.)

Tim tells a story about a website that existed back then called f**kedcompany.com.

The website showcased ridiculous businesses that were burning through money, and over time it developed into a chat room for venture capitalists, stock investors, and professional asset managers.

Tim describes a post he read once in 1999 from somebody who called himself ‘Stanford MBA’.

It was brief and to the point:

“We have stumbled upon the perfect business model. We will lose money on every sale, and we will make up for up it in volume.”

The market peaked just a few months later. And when it came crashing down, the NASDAQ lost 78% of its value.

As a matter of fact, when adjusted for inflation, the NASDAQ is still 17.6% below its March 2000 peak.

In other words, investors have waited nearly two decades and STILL haven’t recovered their losses from the dot-com bubble.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see the obvious warning signs.

The mania in 1999 was palpable. No one cared about profit. Retail investors were piling in at record pace. And the ‘experts’ said it would last forever.

We’re seeing similar indicators today.

Some of the largest, most popular companies in the world have been inflating their stock prices by borrowing money to purchase their own shares. Others, including ExxonMobil, AT&T, Verizon, Netflix, etc. have NEGATIVE free cash flow, meaning that their businesses are burning through cash and increasing debt.

Yet despite this cash burn, stock valuations are currently at their highest levels since the financial crisis, and have only been higher two times in history. (One of them was the Great Depression.)

And retail investors have been piling in at record levels; Charles Schwab recently reported unprecedented amounts of investors are opening new brokerage accounts.

Of course, if stocks are highly overvalued, bonds are even more ridiculous.

Governments that are completely bankrupt have been able to borrow trillions of dollars at yields which are NEGATIVE.

Perhaps most astonishingly, last month the government of Argentina sold $2.75 billion worth of bonds that will not mature until the year 2117– ONE HUNDRED YEARS from now.

(Bear in mind that Argentina has spent 75 out of the last 200 years in some state of default.)

And the experts tell us that the good times will last forever. No other than Janet Yellen stated a few weeks ago that we will not see another financial crisis in our lifetimes.

The list goes on and on. Stocks are at all-time highs. Bonds are at all-time highs. Real estate is at all-time highs.

So is, by the way, consumer debt, government debt, and margin debt. (The latter means that investors are borrowing record amounts of money to buy stocks.)

None of this makes sense.

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson opens his book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry with a great quote: “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.

The same can clearly be said about financial markets. They can remain irrational and expensive for years even though it makes absolutely no sense.

And yes, markets could become even MORE irrational and expensive.

But this is hardly a reason to participate in such madness.

There are always other options… including the option to do nothing at all.

Personally I am building up a large cash position right now and waiting patiently for a major correction (or even crash).

This is one thing we do know for certain– nothing moves up or down in a straight line. Asset prices rise and fall in boom/bust cycles.

And when those crashes occur, having cash is critical.

Remember the 2008 crash? Bank lending dried up. It was nearly impossible to borrow money to invest.

And the most incredible opportunities were available exclusively to investors who had plentiful cash and the will to act.

This might mean waiting months or even years for the opportunity to strike.

But when it comes to investing, the long-term risk-adjusted rewards of being patient and conservative almost invariably outweigh the short-term gains of chasing the latest fad.

Do you have a Plan B?

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Blue Snowflake's picture

Another "it's different this time" article. Yawn.



knukles's picture

Men have free will; God doesn't care.
And some people want the universe to make sense?
Have any of these noobs considered that the entire universe exists between ther ears and they think "It doesn't make sense"?

francis scott falseflag's picture

The Universe makes plenty of sense.

It's human beans that are fucked.

logicalman's picture

The universe is likely stranger than humans can imagine, but it's worth the time to ponder.

Humans evolved to deal with the parts of the universe close to them and at scales that had some bearing on their continued survival. Our brains aren't much different to early man. We have much better tech, but that just gives us information we struggle to get our heads around.

Concepts such as D-branes, 11 dimensional universes and quantum theory can definitely hurt your head - in a good way!

Quarks, gluons, Higgs at one end and black holes with the mass of 12 billion suns at the other.

Strangely, humans scale is just about in the middle. Maybe that's why we can look both ways.

Everything's interesting if you look closely enough!


runnymede's picture

A lot of things make sense if one doesn't try to define them anthropomorphically

francis scott falseflag's picture


"Humans evolved to deal with the parts of the universe close to them 

and at scales that had some bearing on their continued survival."



But there are many parts of the universe close to us that have to do with our continued

survival that are not found on the periodic table and involve morality, ethics and a healthy

dose of humanity toward our fellow earthlings, who wander in the same universe with

nobel lauriates, but whom our government murders like they were vermin.







logicalman's picture

I would agree that there are the things you suggest, no argument, but when it all comes down to it, we are here largely by chance.

Look back at geological history - Mass extinctions cause by events on scales that dwarf humanity - Deccan Traps - Chicxulub meteorite strike are two examples.

Every time there's been a huge extinction event another animal group has become dominant.

The dinos lasted about 160 million years, humans have been around for about 2 million, in some form reasonably close to us.

Problem is, humans have found ways to produce the same levels of damage as nature can and those in control don't care so long as they get MORE.

I doubt the univese is aware, in any sense that we can relate to.

The main thing to remember, when looking at the universe is thermodynamics.

I think that's the 'big one'

The whole 'before the big bang' thing is a real thorny problem.

If old Mr. Einstein is right on spacetime, then time came into being with the Big Bang so to ask what came before it is not a reasonable question.

Apologies for the ramble, but it's a BIG subject.


francis scott falseflag's picture


All those mass extinctions yet if just one of those events had nailed one of our great

grandfathers*, we wouldn't be here to chat about it.

That's what I like about life.


grandfather n

Lumberjack's picture

The universe is still pretty much free...except for rhe existence of a few liberal blackholes.

Thought experiment:

What happens when 2 blackholes meet?

runnymede's picture

Quit being concise and astute. Makes everyone else look bad

Arnold's picture

knuckles didn't used to be that way.

Arnold's picture

"And retail investors have been piling in at record levels; Charles Schwab recently reported unprecedented amounts of investors are opening new brokerage accounts."

Lots of mail order, do it yourself kits sold.
Sh--wave come to mind.

Arnold's picture

If I was a quant or analyst, coming out of a Hedge Fund I helped blow up, I would open my own account as well.

I know what I am doing and it will be different this time.

runnymede's picture

A good friend got a near million dollar settlemrnt in late 2000 and against my advice piled it into the Nasdaq. Got out with a fraction of that. The mania is hard to describe for anyone who didn't go through it. I think it was even greater than what it is today.  Ask jeeves was the google of its day, and it basically blew chunks, but was bought out for big $ IIRC.

HRClinton's picture

Actuality, Simon and ZH readers...


That's not just the Truth that's more honest and accurate than "Gospel Truth", it's also the name of a good must-read book by the same title.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Blah, blah, blah.  Don't overthink this Simon.  The laws of Nature and physics simply don't give a fuck. What a jack off.

runnymede's picture

Simon knows the score; he's got his own vested interests in pumping up sentiments that serve him. Which is also nature's law it would seem

serotonindumptruck's picture

I remember fuckedcompany.com

It was run by a Jewish guy in NYC named Phillip Kaplan.

It was the Zerohedge of its day (2000-2004).

scintillator9's picture

Pud was the Tyler of the day then.

Of note, FC ran until about 2007.

The memo parts were fun to read, not so much when it involved one's employer.

Too-Big-to-Bail's picture

The world has become crazy since 2008 and even moreso since Trump was elected. I used to worry, but now I just grab the popcorn and wait for the 'poclips. Just hope I get to kill myself a money changer

Turin Turambar's picture

Blah, blah, blah...  the runup will continue.  I'm expecting a rip-roaring short squeeze to new all time highs in August based solely on them msm stories about a potential crash.  Get all the sheep on the short side and then fleece them all.  After that, burn it to the ground.

Clock Crasher's picture

Do you have a plan B?

Yes! move to a homogeneous (South American) country that is relatively safe with feminine women and nice weather.

Sonny Brakes's picture

Two words: Northern Telecom and Enron

Sonny Brakes's picture

What a shit show that turned out to be.

roddy6667's picture

Global Crossing, WorldCom, etc. Very long list. 

Today's lost would include Tesla, SolarCity, and Amazon-all the companies that don't make a profit, but just keep selling more and more bubbleicious stock.

DuneCreature's picture

The universe makes sense,.....the markets don't, because they are RIGGED, Simon.

Just buy the dip and bail when the big banks bail. ... Assuming they send you the memo.

Live Hard, Or Buy Gold, Armed Guards And Fortifications In Equal Proportions, Die Free

~ DC v7.3

francis scott falseflag's picture

As if there's going to be any place to spend your money (assuming the

brokerage you sold out with doesn't declare bankrupty).  


We're in terra incognita, buster.  How any times do I have to tell you that?


DuneCreature's picture

We could always invest in Pichai Sundararajan's Secret Mars Base.

(Forward to 6:00)

Is that terra incog-neat-o enough for you?

The growth potential is out of this world and I don't think the elite jackal has taken it IPO yet.

Live Hard, I'm Just Going To Grow My Own Food And Shoot All Of The Varmints Trying To Raid My Garden At About 500 Yards Out, Die Free

~ DC v7.3

francis scott falseflag's picture

Pick up your Legos and put them back in the box.  

Take a bath.  Put on your pajamas and you can have some ice cream before bed.



UmbilicalMosqueSweeper's picture

How much do diesel subs go for these days?

Rebelrebel7's picture

I have a plan B. Repeal the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and restore the right to coin and regulate the value of money to Congress as granted in Article 1,Section 8 Clause 5 of the constitution.

It is impossible to reduce the national debt without destroying the economy since the money supply is based on government debt.

There would be no need for estate, capital gains, or income taxes and there would be no need to reduce spending since the government could simply issue the currency required to finance its operations.

We could employ millions with infrastructure projects and build desperately needed nursing homes for the aging babyboomers.

Wahooo's picture

No fucking way would I give congress the right to coin. They'd stamp more to buy hookers blow and little boys.

UmbilicalMosqueSweeper's picture

Trust the current Congress to regulate the value of money? Anyone have a 1911 to play Russian roulette with?

Bernardo Gui's picture

Sitting on cash in a zero interest rate environment indefinitely while waiting for the next crash does not sound like sound financial planning, unless you have money to burn.

scintillator9's picture

Fear not, even money market accounts were not spared the last time.

Even those "broke the buck".



Consuelo's picture



I agree.


Taking that cash and doing as the Chinese do - buying real things while that cash still has 'value', seems much more prudent.   Or storable food.   Or 20 Ga. Federal Vital Shoks, etc.

Swamp Yankee's picture

Margot Roby in a bubble bath already explained this in precise detail.

adr's picture

The world would have been fine if 2008 was allowed to play out. Most real companies wouldn't have gone out of business, but the bullshit ones would have. 

We wouldn't have seen a company that makes shitty coffee machines build billions in paper value. Amazon surely wouldn't have gone to $1000 a share. Fucking fast food burritos wouldn't be given triple digit P/Es. 


All eggs wouldn't have been put in the stock market. Cryptocurrencies wouldn't have even gone past a value of hundredths of a penny. 

The world would have made sense and the productive economy would have flourished. 

Instead, Trillions were printed and given to those who least deserve it. We get $2000 PCLN and a total fuck like Zuckerberg worth tens of billions. 

The only thing that makes sense to me is the thought of relieving Wall Street bulls of their heads. 

indio007's picture

Stopped reading at Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Don't quote that moron please.

idontcare's picture

Hey, at least the article didn't quote Bill Nye or Kaku.

oldguyonBMXbike's picture

Neil Degrasse Tyson is a fucking moron cocksucker.

oldguyonBMXbike's picture

The universe is simple. It is men who make things complex so they can confuse and enslave the masses. 

runnymede's picture

You stole that from the front page of the Davos agenda didn't ya? ^^^^

brushhog's picture

Remember Simon, the universe is under no obligation to make sense to YOU either. We could see asset prices continue to rise for another decade. We've all been very wrong before...remember the hyperinflation that never happened? Collapse of the dollar? Negative interest rates? Cash bans? Gold to 10k?

Nobody knows whats going to happen.

consider me gone's picture

Study quantum physics and you'll come to truly know that you don't know sheet and the Creator can do anything he damn well pleases, if he (just gender convention for conversation sake) pleases. And don't try to tell me all the math I studied was written by a void possessing no mass, energy or logic. Whatever is going on, it is waaaaay over our heads. But I think the best  clue is God is Love. Tough, tough, tough love if you ask me, but love none the less.

A great line from The International is "Fiction has to make sense, reality doesn't."