Posts in Politics and society
Eulogy for a cycle

This essay is full of contradictions and loose ends, so I might as well start with one in the title. This cycle is not over yet, and I am not sure that I have the definitive answer for when it will end. It is, however, well advanced with some themes and narratives. I am writing this in an attempt to make sense of and to explain, a world, which to my despair is increasingly devoid of reason. As a finance geek, I can’t get anywhere without first establishing the state of play in the economy and markets. The most salient feature since the financial crisis has been the unprecedented activism of monetary policy. In 2006, Alan Blinder described central banking in the 21st century. It is a brilliant paper but in dire need of an update given actions taken by policymakers since 2008.  Central bankers were first called into action to prevent a collapse. The destruction in markets after Lehman’s failure showed that timidity or firmness in the face of moral hazard risk was impossible. Interbank markets were seizing up, banks were running out of liquidity, and the chaos quickly was spreading to the real economy.  Decisive action was needed to avoid the situation spiralling out of control. Central banks had to take their role as lenders of last resort seriously.

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Let's stick to what we know

Investors have found it difficult to resist the temptation to become armchair generals in response to the recent flurry of geopolitical volatility. I have some sympathy for that. Political experts told us that Mr. Trump would mark the beginning of a new U.S. isolationism, and even speculated about the emergence of a new Monroe doctrine. The president's "America First" discourse, the statement that NATO is obsolete, and the rapprochement to Russia were all pivots watched ominously by other world leaders, especially in continental Europe.

This story, however, increasingly feels like ancient history.

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Can the Illusion be Sustained?

Another week, another hand grenade thrown in U.S. politics and international affairs. President Trump and his advisors believe they have the wind in their sails, and they're determined to make as much headway as possible. We all have our opinions on this, but as investors we need to keep our eyes on the ball. And the situation is getting interesting. Spoos are up 23% since the lows of the Q1 panic in 2016, and it has soared 10% alone since Mr. Trump snatched the elections.

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In the Mouth of Madness

My last post was a copout, but necessary for me to express where I think things stand without going off on a million tangents. I think that maintaining an ultra-cynical view on markets, and the economy, now is critical. Recent political events have injected a huge amount of emotion, and I dare say anger, into the economic and financial market debate. It’s tempting to jump in both feet first, but investors are ill served by letting their own views and biases steer their decisions. This will sound obvious, but it isn’t always easy to follow.

Sometimes, though, a cynical approach can only come after a cathartic release of your own opinion and views. This post does just that, and I am going to piss off a lot of people. So close your browser if you’re not interested.

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