Bitcoin plunged another 15% or so from its bounce highs this morning as volatility has picked up dramatically in the virtual currency. The reasons are numerous: JPMorgan has come out with a scathing attack - "bitcoin looks like an innovation worth limiting exposure to;" CoinDesk reports that major exchanges are under a "massive and concerted attack" by a bot system - creating a "fog of confusion" over the system; and perhaps most critically, BitStamp has followed Mt.Gox and halted withdrawals "due to inconsistent results from their bitcoin wallet" - due to the DDoS attacks...
- Only time will define Bernanke's crisis-era legacy at Fed (Reuters)
- Record Cash Leaves Emerging Market ETFs (BBG)
- Investors Look Toward Safer Options as Ground Shifts (WSJ)
- Fed Policy Makers Rally Behind Tapering QE as Yellen Era Begins (BBG)
- Rating agencies criticise China’s bailout of failed $500m trust (FT)
- Russia to await new Ukraine government before fully implementing rescue (Reuters)
- U.S. readies financial sanctions against Ukraine: congressional aides (Reuters)
- Companies resist president’s call for minimum wage rise (FT)
- Secret Swiss Funds at Risk as Italy’s Saccomanni Visits Bern (BBG)
- Top Democrat puts Obama trade deals in doubt (FT)
- Erdogan to Give Rate Increase Time Before Trying Other Plans (BBG)
The problem, though, is that once you embrace the Narrative of Central Bank Omnipotence to "explain" recent events, you can't compartmentalize it there. If the pattern of post-crisis Emerging Market growth rates is largely explained by US monetary accommodation or lack thereof ... well, the same must be true for pre-crisis Emerging Market growth rates. The inexorable conclusion is that Emerging Market growth rates are a function of Developed Market central bank liquidity measures and monetary policy, and that all Emerging Markets are, to one degree or another, Greece-like in their creation of unsustainable growth rates on the back of 20 years of The Great Moderation (as Bernanke referred to the decline in macroeconomic volatility from accommodative monetary policy) and the last 4 years of ZIRP. It was Barzini all along!
China’s ongoing colonization of Africa represents yet another sad development in the continent’s tragic history, as we noted previously Africa remains the great untapped credit creation cauldron of the world (and therefore Keynesian growth). Unfortunately, Erik Prince of Blackwater infamy is now coming to town, which can only mean more pain, suffering and servitude for Africa.
- NSA phone data control may come to end (AP)
- China to rescue France: Peugeot Said to Weigh $1.4 Billion From Dongfeng, France (BBG)
- China to rescue Davos: Davos Teaches China to Ski as New Rich Lured to Slopes (BBG)
- Hollande’s Tryst and the End of Marriage (BBG)
- Iran has $100 billion abroad, can draw $4.2 billion (Reuters)
- Target Hackers Wrote Partly in Russian, Displayed High Skill, Report Finds (WSJ)
- Nintendo Sees Loss on Dismal Wii U Sales (WSJ)
- Goldman's low-cost Utah bet buoys its bottom-line (Reuters)
- Royal Dutch Shell Issues Profit Warnin: Oil Major Hit by Higher Exploration Costs and Lower Oil and Gas Volumes (WSJ)
- EU Weighs Ban on Proprietary Trading at Some Banks From 2018 (BBG) - so no holding of breaths?
- Sacramento Kings to Accept Bitcoin (WSJ)
... the most effective alpha-generating investment strategies are parasites. An alpha-generating strategy of the type I’m describing uses the market itself as its habitat. It’s not an investment strategy based on the fundamentals of this company or that company – the equivalent of a geographic habitat – but on the behaviors of market participants who are living their investment lives in that fundamentally-derived habitat. A parasitic strategy isn’t the only way to generate alpha – you can also be better suited for a particular investment environment (think warm-blooded animal versus cold-blooded animal as you go into an Ice Age) and generate alpha that way – but I believe that the investment strategies with the largest and most consistent “edge” are, in a very real sense, parasites.
As a result of this, the financial sector remains rife with fraud and impossible to accurately value (how can you value a business that is lying about its balance sheet?).
Simplistic, subjective and unbalanced anti-gold opinions tend to get media coverage. However, it is important to always focus on the empirical evidence as seen in the academic research, price performance over the long term and the historical record.
Evolutionary theory as a perspective for understanding human behavior within capital markets is a more useful perspective than what economic theory has become... a cloistered, brittle theology that day after day becomes more abstract in its formation and more narrow in its application. The first and most basic lesson of an evolutionary perspective properly applied: we are well served as investors to jettison the superiority complex that comes with living in the present and looking back on what naturally seems a benighted past. The notions of liberal progress and evolution-as-hierarchy are so deeply ingrained that we assume that whatever behaviors are new or modern, including modern investment management practices or modern investment strategies (or modern monetary policy), must be part and parcel of some advancement over what existed in the past. In truth there is no up-and-to-the-right arrow associated with evolution; there is no intelligent design pushing us “forward”.
With Trader Monthly magazine having, ironically, gone out business long ago, all those traders whose egos demanded that their insider trading connections put them at least in one of the iconic "Top X under X" league tables, pardon, rankings, had to bide their time in expectation of one day when their prowess to frontrun others or move markets with repeated calls to 555-7617 (with or without references to Anacott Steel) would be appreciated by such sterling Wall Street "experts" as Anthony Scaramucci. Well, for this year's crop of some 30 traders under 30, the day has arrived. And while Forbes may not be Trader Monthly, the amusement, the hubris and the behind the scenes dealing to appear in such a list, sure are still the same...
Since quantitative easing (QE) became the policy of the world's major central banks, capital is being herded into fewer and fewer asset classes. With such huge volumes of money at play, very crowded trades in assets like stocks and housing have resulted - bringing us back to familiar bubble territory in record time. The key for the individual, as Pretti emphasizes in this excellent interview, is risk management. The safety many investors believe they are buying in today's markets is not real... "this comes down to individual families making an assessment of how much risk they can afford to take. Below that line, they do not allow it to happen. It may sound trite but: You have every day of your life to get back into the market, but sometimes you do not have a second chance to get out."
Alan Greenspan's Modest Proposal: Fix Broken Economic Models By... Modeling Irrational "Animal Spirits"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/02/2014 15:26 -0400
We leave it to everyone's supreme amusement to enjoy the Maestro's full non-mea culpa essay, but we will highlight Greenspan's two most amusing incosistencies contained in the span of a few hundred words. On one hand the former Chairman admits that "The financial crisis [...] represented an existential crisis for economic forecasting. The conventional method of predicting macroeconomic developments -- econometric modeling, the roots of which lie in the work of John Maynard Keynes -- had failed when it was needed most, much to the chagrin of economists." On the other, his solution is to do... more of the same: "if economists better integrate animal spirits into our models, we can improve our forecasting accuracy. Economic models should, when possible, measure and forecast systematic human behavior and the tendencies of corporate culture.... Forecasters may never approach the fantasy success of the Oracle of Delphi or Nostradamus, but we can surely improve on the discouraging performance of the past." So, Greenspan's solution to the failure of linear models is to... model animal spirits, or said otherwise human irrationality. Brilliant.
In a vacuum, the U.S. is enjoying strengthening economic growth buttressed by a positive feedback loop due in large part to improving household debt dynamics and job creation. Asia seems to be adequately managing economic growth as well; investors remain sanguine on China and the general region’s long-term outlook. While Europe struggles to grow, due to continued austerity, the situation has improved. Taken together, RCS Investments' Rodrigo Serrano notes that these 3 regions illustrate an ongoing global recovery that remains on weak foundations, susceptible to influence by both positive and negative factors. Below are the most important trends investors need to keep an eye out for over the coming year.
• the risk of runs and asset fire sales in repurchase (repo) markets;
• excessive credit risk-taking and weaker underwriting standards;
• exposure to duration risk in the event of a sudden, unanticipated rise in interest rates;
• exposure to shocks from greater risk-taking when volatility is low;
• the risk of impaired trading liquidity;
• spillovers to and from emerging markets;
• operational risk from automated trading systems, including high-frequency trading; and
• unresolved risks associated with uncertainty about the U.S. fiscal outlook.
"Step right up and try your luck...spin the wheel and watch where she lands...everybody's a winner" - sometimes if you listen hard enough you can almost hear the Carney coaxing unwary investors to step up and try their luck in a game that has been rigged against them. During the last two decades, we have been amazed to watch as individuals strolled through the doors of the Wall Street casino to try their luck by betting "against the house" for a dream of riches. Just as with anyone who has ever gone to Vegas - you will win sometimes but the "house" wins most of the time. However, there are always the "professional gamblers" that can do better than the average most of the time. Why? Because they understand "risk" in its various forms...