Risk Management

Frontrunning: January 15

  • White House delays 2014 budget after "fiscal cliff" standoff (Reuters) - And Senate will pass this... never?
  • Amari Signals Limits to Abe’s Campaign to Weaken Yen (BBG)
  • Draghi’s Bond Rally Masks Debt Doom Loop Trapping Spain (BBG)
  • Obama backs gun limits, concedes tough fight ahead (AP)
  • Bernanke to Weigh QE Costs as Fed Assets Approach Record (BBG)
  • Japan to Sell Debt Worth 7.8 Trillion Yen to Pay for Stimulus (BBG)
  • France more than doubles forces in Mali (FT) and yet...
  • Malian Rebels Take Town and Vow to Avenge French Attack (NYT)
  • China’s Li Calls for Patience as Government Works to Reduce Smog (BBG)
  • EU berates China over steel subsidies (BBG)
  • Number of working poor families grows as wealth gap widens (Reuters)

Guest Post: Heads Or Tails - The 2013 Coin Toss

In money management long term success lies not in garnering short term returns but avoiding the pitfalls that lead to large losses of invested capital.  While it is not popular in the media to point out the headwinds that face investors in the months ahead - it is also naive to only focus on the positives.  While it is true that markets rise more often than not, unfortunately, it is when markets don't that investors are critically set back from their long term goals.  It is not just the loss of capital that is devastating to the compounding effect of returns but, more importantly, it is the loss of "time" which is truly limited and never recoverable. Therefore, as we look forward into 2013, we want to review three reasons to be bullish about investing in the months to come but also review three risks that could derail the markets along the way. The reality is that no one knows for sure where the markets will end this year; and while it is true that "bull markets are more fun than bear markets" the damage to investment portfolios by not managing the risks can be catastrophic.

2012 Year In Review - Free Markets, Rule of Law, And Other Urban Legends

Presenting Dave Collum's now ubiquitous and all-encompassing annual review of markets and much, much more. From Baptists, Bankers, and Bootleggers to Capitalism, Corporate Debt, Government Corruption, and the Constitution, Dave provides a one-stop-shop summary of everything relevant this year (and how it will affect next year and beyond).

More Un-Predictions: Deutsche's 13 Outliers For '13

Following on the heels of Byron Wien, Morgan Stanley's Surprises, and Saxo's Outrageous Predictions, Deutsche Bank's FX strategy team has created a who's who of 13 outliers for 2013. Quite frankly, given the extreme nature of monetary (and now fiscal) policy, asset allocation decisions, and bankers' and politicians' willingness to go into the media and lie directly to our faces, the comprehension of the possible (no matter how improbable) is far more important for risk management than the faith in the centrally-planned unreality our markets (and therefore ourselves) currently find themselves in. As they note, all too often, the tendency to not stray too far from a self-anchoring recent-history-extrapolated consensus (while apparently highly profitable for some for a microcosm of time) leads to unrecoverable drawdowns exactly when career-risk was the limiting factor. From Malaysian elections and EM bubbles bursting to Fed monetizing equities and South China Sea escalation, these outliers seem all to 'normal' in our brave new world.

The Queen Of England Asks Economists – ‘Why Did Nobody Notice?’

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip visited the Bank of England’s gold vault and wonders like most people how the things got so bad.   Back in 2008, when the monarch visited the London School of Economics she described the credit crunch as ‘awful.’ .  Fast forward to 2012, the heart of Europe’s  4 year-old debt crisis while the Queen of England hears a financial expert compare the debt crisis to a flu epidemic or an earthquake, as hard to predict. This comparison is truly patronizing and an insult to the Queen’s intelligence. Although I am not English have some respect for your elders, especially your Queen, Britons!  Pensioners in England can recall hard times during the World War when items like sugar were a luxury.  In this new era of credit you have people complaining if they can’t borrow to have their new BMW financed to match their Cotswold’s country house or Spanish holiday home. The Queen was informed that since financial risk has been managed better (need we mention Libor?) than it was in the past, people became complacent.  She smiled and said, ‘But people had got a bit...lax, had they?’  Her Royal Highness also suggested that the Financial Services Authority may not have been hard-line enough in its policing. She said: ‘The Financial Services – what do they call themselves, the regulators – Authority, which was really quite new … it didn’t have any teeth.’ It’s rather ironic that the tour showed the gold vault since a good portion of the UK gold reserves were sold off from 1999-2002, when gold prices were at their lowest in 20 years. 

"The Shape Of The Next Crisis" - A Preview By Elliott's Paul Singer

"what you realize is that the lessons of ’08 will actually result in a much quicker process, a process that I would describe as a “black hole” if and when there is the next financial crisis.... Nobody in America has actually seen, or most people probably can’t even contemplate, what an actual loss of confidence may look like. What I’m trying to struggle with as a money manager, who really seriously doesn’t like to lose money, is how to protect our capital and how to think about the next crisis."

Bombshell: Deutsche Bank Hid $12 Billion In Losses To Avoid A Government Bail-Out

Forget the perfectly anticipated Greek (selective) default. This is the real deal. The FT just released a blockbuster that Europe's most important and significant bank, Deutsche Bank, hid $12 billion in losses during the financial crisis, helping the bank avoid a government bail-out, according to three former bank employees who filed complaints to US regulators. US regulators, whose chief of enforcement currently was none other than the General Counsel of Deutsche Bank at the time!

Rational Exuberance

Sixteen years ago today, Alan Greenspan spoke the now infamous words "irrational exuberance" during an annual dinner speech at The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Much has changed in the ensuing years (and oddly, his speech is worth a read as he draws attention time and again to the tension between the central bank and the government). Most critically, Greenspan was not wrong, just early. And the result of the market's delay in appreciating his warning has resulted in an epic shift away from those same asset classes that were most groomed and loved by Greenspan - Stocks, to those most hated and shunned by the Fed - Precious Metals. While those two words were his most famous, perhaps the following sentences are most prescient: "A democratic society requires a stable and effectively functioning economy. I trust that we and our successors at the Federal Reserve will be important contributors to that end."

How America's Middle Class, And Future Pensioners, Bailed Out A Generation Of Overzealous Homebuyers

In the current Bernanke-Obama-Keynes toxic triangle (defined previously here) economy, blink too long and you will miss the latest bailout. While 4 years ago, it was America's M.A.D.-hostage taxpaying middle class that had no choice but to fund the trillions in direct Fed cash handouts and guarantees to bail out the banks, in the process saving and preserving the trillions in wealth for America's uber wealthy (the "1%") class, ever since then it has been the government's turn to rescue the country's lower and lower-middle classes (the "47%"), who, with no gun to their heads, decided to splurge during the height of the housing bubble (insurmountable mortgage payments and $0 down notwithstanding) and buy that aspirational McMansion that would make them so much more appealing in the eyes of the next door neighbor (who too could never afford their house in the first place). This has happened courtesy of a progressively more pervasive mortgage forgiveness plan, which has seen the total amount of debt funding a given home purchase shrink little by little each day. However, since there is no free lunch anywhere, certainly not when a bank's balance sheet is being impaired, like in 2008, someone is once again on the hook for this latest bailout. That someone, not surprisingly, is again America's middle class that lived within its means, that saved money while others splurged, and even put cash away for retirement, handing it over to various Pension investment vehicles.

House Republicans Find Corzine Guilty Of MF Global Collapse, Missing Funds; Democrats Refuse To Endorse Findings

It appears that these days not even the Corzining of client money can happen without it being split across furiously polarized party lines. As it turns out hours ago, the Committee on House Financial Services released an advance glimpse into a report to be released in its entirety tomorrow, which puts the blame for the collapse of not only MF Global, but also the disappearance of millions in client money, right where it belongs: the firm's then CEO Jon Corzine. Yet that Corzine corzined millions, leaving clients scrambling in bankruptcy court in an attempt to recover what should have been segregated money from the very beginning, and also just happened to blow up one of the 21 Fed-anointed Primary Dealers, is not surprising: this has been long known by everyone. Those who need a refresher are urged to recall the Honorable's testimony before the House... or maybe not: after all it is not as if Corzine himself could recall a whole lot. Where it gets interesting is that the former Democratic governor, and senator, not to mention primary bundler for president Obama, is, in the eyes of the members of the committee, innocent: All the democrats on the Investigations Subcommittee refused to sign off on the findings, meaning that to them, Corzine is completely innocent. That this is purely a political move is glaringly obvious. It is also abhorrent, because as long as political ideology gets in the way of pursuing and imposing justice, the Banana States of America will remain just that.

Spanish Banks May Face €17 Billion Margin Call As ECB Found To Lie About Collateral Haircuts

Mario Draghi has reassured the world that no matter how much 'crap' collateral is taken on to the ECB's balance sheet, their risk management process is rigorous and ensures the safety of the entity's capital thanks to well-devised haircuts and collateral. Once again, it appears from a report in Die Welt (via Bloomberg), Draghi lied, as the ECB is now checking terms on some lending to Spanish banks that may have already contravened the ECB's mandate allowing overly generous terms to be offered on the Spanish banks' collateral. As Bloomberg notes, the issue surrounds EUR80bn relatively short-dated T-Bills which were wrongly classified as rated 'A' instead of the 'B' that agencies - except DBRS! - had assigned (a vast difference) - which would imply (if the ECB re-assigns the correct rating) the affected Spanish banks would have to produce up to EUR16.6bn in additional collateral (cash or quality collateral that is non-existent in Europe). This of course "casts doubt on the quality of the ECB's risk management" and merely serves to confirm the Juncker-ian lies we have come to expect from Europe's leaders (economic and political). As Die Welt notes: "Critical observers ask: who actually controls the ECB?"

To Mike Bloomberg A Vote For Obama, Whom He Just Endorsed, Is A Vote For Climate Change

First, The Economist, now the man who owns the terminal that global finance uses each day to chat with one another, and occasionally to check the real time price of ESZ2 (if certainly not quite as much this year, and last, as desired). Mike Bloomberg's driving catalyst to chose the way he did? Climate change. Because to some it is the economy, to others: the number of cloudless sunny days in St Barts. The question for employees of Bain now: do they immediately disconnect their BBG terminals, or wait until next Wednesday.