One of our old rules of trading is that whenever a major asset class, index, or other benchmark has a sudden, rapid move in price, something blows up. Sky high. That’s because people get used to regimes. They get used to a certain state of affairs with a lack of volatility. They become complacent. Maybe they stop hedging. Maybe they allow themselves to have unbounded downside risk. Maybe they start gambling. So what's going to blow up?
In the first of three interviews with Merryn Somerset Webb, Hugh Hendry, manager of the Eclectica Fund, talks about what it takes to be a good hedge fund manager – and how he learned to stop worrying and love central banks. As he notes, the world is "guilty of the misconstruing of a bull market in equities, for what is actually the ongoing degradation in the soundness of the fiat monetary system."
"My premise hasn’t really changed since I published my paper explaining why I had become more constructive towards risk assets this time last year. That is to say, the structural deficiency of global demand continues to radicalise the central banking community. I believe they are terrified: the system is so leveraged and vulnerable to potentially systemic price reversals that the monetary authorities find themselves beholden to long only investors and obliged to support asset prices. However, I clearly confused everyone with my choice of language. What I should have said is that investors are perhaps misconstruing rising equity prices as a traditional bull market spurred on by revenue and earnings growth, and becoming fearful of a reversal, when instead the persistent upwards drift in stock markets is more a reflection of the steady erosion of the soundness of the global monetary system and therefore the rise in stock prices is something that is likely to prevail for some time."
"it may make sense to stay invested, but we have reached a point where protection against an untidy denouement to the present market phase should be built into the construction of a portfolio. It is not enough to rely on a protection that will be executed in response to price signals."
"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."
'Not' as exciting and headline-making as Day 1, as damage control was loud and proud after Tepper's "dangerous markets" call. The number of times we heard "what he meant to say was..." made us laugh but day 2 of the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference (SALT) varied from Leon Cooperman's "S&P to 2000" exuberance to Rubinstein's "markets are not cheap" disappointment and everything in between... with Nassim Taleb's "not enough people paid the price for 2008" conclusion summing it all up nicely.
With everyone and their mom confused at how bonds can rally when stocks (the ultimate arbiter of truthiness) are also positive, we have seen Deutsche confused (temporary technicals), Bloomberg confirm the shortage, and BofA blame the weather (for a lack of bond selling). Today, we have two more thoughtful and comprehensive perspectives from Gavekal's Louis-Vincent Gave (on why yields are so low) and Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann (on why they' stay that way).
Bank of America, whose stubborn, and quite abysmal "short Treasurys" call, has been one of the worst sellside trade recos in recent history and cost investors countless losses, has an update. Only instead of doing a mea culpa and finally admitting it was wrong, the bailed out bank has decided to provide humor instead. Namely it too has joined the ranks of countless others providing an "explanation" (or in its case, an "excuse") for the relentless bond bid. The punchline: "cold weather."
The following is Part 2 (Part 1 here) a firsthand story of how and why a former US citizen - who kindly shared this information on condition of anonymity - decided to renounce his US citizenship
Government intervention, no matter what its form or intention, causes iatrogenics — unintended negative consequences that hurt the very people they’re intended to help. Nowhere is this better exemplified than with Obamacare, a policy intended to bring insurance to all that has in effect taken it away from many. Perhaps the growing coalition of people recognizing this paradox will take this revelation and apply it to other policy arenas as well. For the affected classes, we can only hope.
"Debt increases tail-risk," warns anti-fragility expert Nassim Taleb, "whether it's personal, corporate, or governmental." A rise in debt, he warns, implies nothing less than a rise in "the risk of catastrophe," and Taleb chides, governments "should be focused in risk-management... instead of creating these risks." This brief Bloomberg TV clip cuts to the chase as the normally circumlocutory Taleb unloads on the perils of central banks, "Mr. Greenspan created tail risk by eliminating the business cycle," and since then tail-risks have accumulated with debt the "number one creator of these risks." In a fascinating phrase, Taleb notes, "corporate debt is benign," since in failure it turns into equity, "but government debt is another matter... for it turns into inflation or worse invasion..."
With the case for the next Fed chairman having devolved to the most ridiculous of decision trees, such as Nancy Pelosi's "it would be great to have a woman", because apparently gender diversity trumps everything in the eyes of the California democrat, the choice of Bernanke's successor is now more nebulous than ever. It has certainly not been aided by the periodic floating of the Larry Summers trial balloon, especially as originating from the Fed's WSJ mouthpiece who one week presents Summers as the favorite and the next skewers his chances. However, one person for whom the Summers vote is essentially a done deal with 90% odds, is Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann. Here is his logic.
A system that suppresses dissent is fault-intolerant, ignorant and fragile. Any event that does not respond to centralized, rationalized policy creates unintended consequences that throws the centralized mechanism into disarray. Lacking dissent and redundancy, the system piles on one haphazard, politically expedient "fix" after another, further destabilizing the system. The event that triggers crisis and collapse isn't important; the system, rendered unstable and fragile by centralization, is primed for crisis and collapse. The dry underbrush is piled high, and if the first lightning strike doesn't start the fire, the second one will. With dissent and the inefficiencies of redundancy and decentralized pathways of response gone, there is nothing left to stop a conflagration that consumes the entire forest.