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...
Do we need a banking sector dominated by politically untouchable "Too Big to Fail" (TBTF) banks? Thanks to fast-advancing technology, the answer is a resounding no. Not only do we not need a banking sector, we would be immensely better off were the banking sector to wither and vanish from the face of the Earth, along with its parasitic class of political enablers, toadies and Federal Reserve apparatchiks.... An automated banking utility has no need for parasitic bankers or politicos or indeed, a central bank. The only legitimate regulatory function of the state is to enforce transparency; beyond that, its actions are all subsidies of one sort or another of politically powerful constituencies at the expense of the real economy's productive people, communities and enterprises.
Neofeudal financialization and unproductive State/corporate vested interests have bled the middle class dry. Yet we accept the officially sanctioned narratives as authentic and meaningful. Why? Perhaps the truth is simply too painful to accept, so we will reject it until we have no other alternative.
There are only a few UK and U.S. banks on the list of global safe banks. This should give pause for thought. Notice that many of the safest banks in the world are in Switzerland and Germany.
Last month, we offered a plain language translation of the Warsh op-ed, because we thought it was too carefully worded and left readers wondering what he really wanted to say. Translation wasn’t necessary for Fisher’s speech, which contained a clear no-confidence vote in the Fed’s QE program. Now William Poole is more or less saying that we have no idea what’s truly behind the Fed’s decisions. But he doesn’t stop there. He’s willing to make a prediction that you wouldn’t expect from an establishment economist... Poole’s refreshingly honest take on the Fed’s inner workings – from someone who truly knows what goes on behind the curtains – is more than welcome.
Volcker Rule - Who cares? I know we are supposed to care more about this convoluted rule, but we just can’t. The concept that somehow “prop” trading brought down the banks seems silly. The idea that market making desks were a dangerous part of the equation is ludicrous. They could have fixed this with a few simple changes, but that would have meant some blame would have had to be shifted onto the regulators...
Emergency resolutions and legislation would be likely in many countries in the event of another Lehman Brothers collapse and another global credit and financial crisis.
Particularly vulnerable banks in each country are....
Below some leading economists and financial commentators give their perspective regarding the risks of bail-ins or deposit confiscation. If you manage money in any way, your own or others,it will be prudent to heed their warnings.
There’s no question here about identifying the oppressors and the oppressed. There’s no conflict between the internal exercise of your freedom to think for yourself and your external behavior. There’s no omnipresent social media, no cacophony of commercial voices, no GPS chips, no algorithms that can predict your likes and dislikes better than you can yourself. It’s just faceless soldiers with AK-47’s trying to impose their will on Patrick Swayze’s external behavior. It’s a movie that would have made as much sense (more?) in 1784 as it did when released in 1984. Our world isn’t “Red Dawn,” it’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Control over our behaviors isn’t as much physical as it is mental, not so much externally imposed as it is internally embraced. If you’re reading this note, the problem is not that you are in a dogmatic slumber and need to be woken up. The problem is that you know it’s in your best economic interest to act as if you’re still asleep. In a world overrun by pod people, the big losers are the people who can’t fake their pod-ness and ultimately get outed by Donald Sutherland.