Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Putting the deficit into perspective

Just to put the deficit into perspective for you lefties out there, who seem to think that overspending by £168bn a year is a-ok, perfectly sustainable and dare I say it, even welcome.

That amount of money is more than all income tax revenues. It is not far away from all public sector pay and pensions, or the welfare bill.

So choose - double all taxes, cut 90% of the public sector, or 85% of all welfare payments.

*That* is Gordon Brown's real legacy.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Eat what you kill

I saw this the other day and thought it might make a few of those anti-market types on the Left (I mean, what do they want? Communism?) think a bit before they continue bashing bankers....given those bankers have been taught to eat what they kill.....

Here's something that's doing the rounds on Wall Street.

'We are Wall Street. It's our job to make money. Whether it's a commodity, stock, bond, or some hypothetical piece of fake paper, it doesn't matter. We would trade baseball cards if it were profitable.

I didn't hear America complaining when the market was roaring to 14,000 and everyone's pension plan doubled every 3 years. Just like gambling, its not a problem until you lose. I've never heard of anyone going to Gamblers Anonymous because they won too much in Vegas!

Well now the market crapped out, and even though it has come back somewhat, the government and the average Joes are still looking for a scapegoat. God knows there has to be one for everything. Well, here we are.

Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you're only going to hurt yourselves. What's going to happen when we can't find jobs on the Street anymore ? Guess what - we're going to take yours. We get up at 5am and work 'till 10pm or later. We're used to remaining at our desks, working for hours on end. We don't even need to pee. We don't take an hour or more for lunch, and we don't take much time off for holidays. We don't demand a union to represent us. And we don't retire at 50 with a pension. We eat what we kill, and when the only thing left to eat is your job, we'll eat that instead

For years teachers and other unionized labor have had us fooled. We were too busy working to notice. Do you really think that we are incapable of teaching 3rd graders ? We're going to take your cushy guaranteed-for-life-jobs - you know, the ones that come with four months paid holiday a year. So say goodbye to your overtime and double time, as we'll be in the market for some of your cushy lifestyle - and we'll undertake your jobs more efficiently, and with none of your constant whining that the pay isn't enough and that the working conditions are too tough.

So now that we're going to be making $85k a year without any bonus upside, Joe Mainstreet is going to have his revenge, right ? Wrong! Guess what - we're going to stop buying those luxury items that help make the economy grow, and we aren't going to leave those 35% tips at our business dinners anymore. And from now on, we're going to landscape our own back yards, and wash our cars with a garden hose in our driveways, instead of spreading that wealth around. There'll be no more free rides on our backs. Don't forget, our money was your money. You spent it. When our money dries up, so does yours.

The difference is, though, you lived off of it, we rejoiced in it. The Obama administration and the Democratic National Committee might get their way and knock us off the top of the pyramid, but it's really going to hurt like hell for them when our fat a**es land directly on the American middle classes and knock them to the bottom of the food chain.

We aren't dinosaurs. We are smarter and more vicious than that, and we are going to survive. The question is, now that Obama and his administration are making Joe Mainstreet our food supply, will he survive ? And will all those we displace ?'

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

On markets and quantum mechanics

Tyler has studied the field of physics, and has worked in finance for some time. In one of his lazier, possibly beer-soaked musings it occured to him that there are many great similarities between them.

It is well known that many maths geeks work in the city already, and that the the Black-Scholes (option) model is really just a diffusion equation. But is there more between them than we see at first glimpse?

It occurs to me, that quantum energy levels of electrons in an atom look very much like fibonacci projections many chartist traders also seems to me that many options, or levels of a market, create their own momentum - almost like gravity.

Those levels, especially big binary options can also act as barriers, requiring a certain "energy" to overcome, then leave the market orbiting that level for quite some time afterwards. There is the push and pull of opposing forces around certain levels, and the volume increasing in the process which remind me of charging capacitors.....

Am I on to something here or am I jsut going crazy?

Tyler vs the NHS

Tyler recently had to have a medical, including a chest X-ray. So, he trotted off to his GP one morning, and after the 90 minute wait, saw him. The GP quickly decided that most of the things on the medical weren't worth testing so signed everything off within 5 minutes. So far so good, thought Tyler. The GP even gave Tyler a little card to take to the local walk-in X-ray department, telling them to give me an X-ray. This five minute meeting cost Tyler the princely sum of £75, which works out more than private medical car would have done, but Tyler was in a hurry, so....

...he wandered down to the local walk-in X-ray place. Only one person was in the queue ahead of me, and I was in for my X-ray within 20 minutes. NHS efficiency had clearly improved. That was, of course, until the radiographer came back with my X-ray. She held it up in front of me, had a good look and happily reported that everything was normal (or as normal as things get for Tyler).

When I asked if I could take it back to my GP, to have the last bit of my medical completed, the problems began. I was told that the X-ray had to be posted somewhere else, where it would then be scanned and emailed back to my GP. This process would take 2 weeks (in the end, it took 3). I wasn't allowed a copy, nor would they post it to my GP, or anything *had* to be scanned by these people in the great X-ray processing department.

This, my friends, is the result of Labour's insistence on targets and top-down management. Lots of money has been spent on the service, but in real terms it is no more efficient than it was 13 years ago. Outcomes are not in focus, just box ticking - the radiographer I saw had her main focus on ticking a box, meeting a regulation and making her master's happy, rather than making sure I (the patient) had what I needed.

By the way, had there been anything wrong, it would have still taken a long time to be reported. The radiographer told me that if she did see a problem, the X-ray would still get sent to the great processing and scanning lab, though it would have an "urgent" sticker on it. This expidited process would only take 1-2 weeks.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Tyler vs. election debate polls

Really quick post;

All the polls are suggesting Cleggy won, and having watched it, he probably did. I'm just not sure why people are representing the poll results in such an arbitrary "first past the post" format. I think it would have been more relevant to have asked each pollster to give each candidate a mark out of ten, then normalize.

This would have given us a better sense of relative performance. Instead, we have only a crude absolute performance, and little information to go on as to how it will effect opinion polls and the final election result.

I am Jack's reasoning mind.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The one where Tyler predicts the future.

This is just an excercise, but I'm going to be right, so there. I'd trust me.

Gilts are going to get a shooing, and it's going to set off a UK death spiral much like that of Greece. Especiallyif Labour hang on to power at the election, as no one trusts them to actually reduce the deficit till forced to.

What will happen?

Not sure the exact mechanics, and it might take some time, but my guess is it will go a little something like this (with apologies to RUN DMC);

Gilt yields are already near all time lows. Gilt issuance is running near all time highs. Inflation is a mixed bag, but could easily spike. Base rate is as low as it can go, so there will be no help there for a long Gilt position. QE has been spent, and at some point will need to be unwound.

Unsurprisingly, many players have already been unloading their Gilts - before QE started 10y were at 3.70%, and now, despite the BoE buying the entire years issuance and more up, they've still managed to sell off...they now trade 4.05%. The money these guys have liberated from their Gilt positions has gone straight into equities. Why the hell do you think they were rallying so much - it's not because the world is suddenly a pretty place. It's jsut asset allocation.

So here's the rub. We now have a situation where governments worldwide are issuing huge amounts more debt, yet pension funds are being more selective about what, and the amounts they buy. For some countries, with sound economies and decent deficit reduction plans, this won't prove a problem. Germany comes to mind, and many of the EM countries.

But for some countries, it will. Greece is the current ongoing example, but I think the UK could easily fall victim as well. People jsut aren't really taking the problem seriously enough, as the general public haven't felt enough pain yet, and there is an election on. Portugal, SPain and Italy could also fall, though I think the Baltic states, Ireland, Iceland and Hungary have all had to take their medicine early, with either internal or external devaluations. Which make people a lot poorer.

So, back to the UK. If the deficit isn't brought under control rapidly, this is what I think will happen. Gilt yields will start to drift up, until there is some kind of market reaction. The market doesn't have the same fear about the UK as it does Greece, but that isn't really the dangerous part. Nor is that the UKs national debt will have tripled, and interest payments will hit around £75bn in 2015 from £35bn now.

What will cause the problem, is that politicians, especially Labour, would try to issue more debt to cover existing debt, to maintan spending, whilst the interest payments are going up, and growth hasn't yet picked up enough. It's called a debt trap.

In itself, the UK will never go bankrupt, and the increase in interest payments is manageable. That isn't where the danger lies though. Rates will start to go up, as investors demand more risk premium, and it's the secondary market where the real crisis is brewing.

I'm not sure what the trigger will be. It could be the Chinese bubble bursting. My guess though, is that rising rates, and large mortgage resets will cause a nasty shock to the £1300bn of outstanding mortgages we have in the UK. If times aer already tough, and disposable incomes are reduced, having 10y rates creep up by 1-2% will push mortgage rates up by roughly double that.

The intial effects will be more saving (as people store up cash to get through hard times ahead. We are already seeing this), then squeezed disposable incomes leading to lower sales figures, and then finally we'll see a flurry of defaults on home lending. Basically a smaller version of the US subprime collapse.

This will in turn depress house prices and stocks, and growth will get smashed hard. All the spending to get the economy out of recession will have actually mired it in something worse, as there will be no room to really manouver. Tax reciepts will drop, and budget deficits will again explode, forcing Gilt yields again higher.

The great deleveraging will have begun. it won't be pretty.

So, to my absolute predictions.

10y Gilts will sell off. Whatever happens. I expect them to trade to 6.50-7.00% at least in a crisis, or 5.50% if things don't go so badly.

Sterling will probably trade up to 1.60 vs $ intially, but I don't give it much room to go past that (unes sthe US debt balloon bursts first, at which point I'd go and invest in a generator, barbed wire, tinned food, a water purifier, shotgun and some big angry dogs. When the looting starts, you'll be ready). If the Uk does death spiral, I can see Cable as low as 1.25.

FTSE will probably trade up to around the 6100 mark. I'd look for a couple of false tops followed by quick reversals as part of my group of indicators. A selloff could go anywhere, but through 5000 is probably a given. If it is really bad, and it looks liek we will have a full on delever, or worse still, a situation like Japan, it could go to 3500.

So, I'm a bear.

Where would I invest? I'd look at things from a fundamental point of view. Look for countries with low debt stocks, smaller budget deficits and room for real economic growth. Ideally with relatively low tax burdens as well. Effectively look for places where there is enough room for manouver should things go wrong again. Some of Latam, non-Japan Asia and South Africa are good places to start. India as well, though I would avoid China. It's too opaque, and I think that there is a huge bubble being blown up there.

I'll finish here. This is Tyler prediciting the future, it's not investment advice. Though I think I'm going to be proved 90% correct over the next 2 years or so.

You read it here first people.

Tyler out.

Tyler vs QE. Tyler wins.

Not many people seem to understand Quantative Easing (QE).

Tyler will now do his best to explain it all for you, in language that you can mostly understand. Keep up, you hear?

QE is essentially printing money. We all know that, right? But what you probably don't know, is that it really is Debt (in the shape of Gilts). More accurately, it is forward starting debt (for those of you with more financial engineering experience, it's the equivalent of a forward starting interest rate swap).

Let Tyler take you by the hand and guide you through it.

1. The DMO issues Gilts to the market via an auction. For arguments sake let's say they are 10y maturity.
2. The BoE electronically "prints" money, and buys those Gilts from the market. The market now has more cash. Thats the Quantative easing bit out of the way.
3. 10 years roll by, and the bonds come up for maturity. The BoE now has one of two choices;

4a. It removes money from the system, undoing the electronic printing it did in step 2. This money is transferred to the DMO, which then can pay it right back to the BoE for the maturing bonds.

4b. It can ask the DMO to issue more bonds, then use the cash from the sale of those bonds to pay for the maturing bonds. It has effectively "rolled" the cash position, but has done so at the cost of issuing more bonds. This is where the forward starting debt bit comes from.

So, QE in effect is adding money into the system now, but at the cost of removing it later. It is debt, albeit kind of odd looking debt. Many lefties don't seem to have any kind of sccoby doo what it really means. To be fair, some governments don't either, but that isn't an excuse.

The UK QE was particularly cheeky - it was just used to by government debt, and pay for the massive deficit, so the government could keep spending high as they went into an election year. In the US QE was partly used to by lower grade credit from banks, which allowed the banks to clean up balance sheets and get lending again. That said, it looks like the US is now buying their own debt, as there is so much of it that foriegn governments can't keep up.