A recent Business Insider chart of the day feature was particularly interesting. Called The stock market is asleep, it observed that the US market has been in a period of very low volatility:
Market technician Ryan Detrick noted that it’s been 8 weeks since we’ve seen a weekly move of at least 1% up or down in the S&P 500. That’s the longest such streak we’ve seen in 21 years.
The suggestion in the article is that the market will go on rising until the economy enters a recession, the implication being that a long period of low volatility is a sign of market health. In fact it is quite the opposite. A sleep-walking market is a reflection of complete disregard as to risk.
Markets enter such periods of complacency when there has been a long uptrend, with periods of very low volatility reflecting where the market has come from, not where it is going. Such periods are far more likely to be a sign of an impending trend reversal than of a continued uptrend. Continue reading “Volatility and Sleep-Walking Markets”
The ending of extend-and-pretend is ushering in a new era of fear and uncertainty which is rapidly evolving into the next phase of the on-going credit crunch.
It is becoming clearer to many that the problems run much deeper than they had perceived, and more people all the time are realising the systemic nature of the risks we are facing. Fear leads to knee-jerk reactions. In financial markets, it leads to volatility and self-fulfilling prophecies to the downside. It leads to capital flight, and then to capital controls. Continue reading “Capital Flight, Capital Controls, Capital Fear”
The nature of markets has long been a major focus here at The Automatic Earth. Whereas most commentators treat markets as being driven in some kind of rational fashion by external events, we have concentrated on the irrational endogenous dynamics and the role of sentiment in creating the perceptions that drive positive feedback loops – either virtuous or vicious circles. Sentiment, and therefore perception, can change very abruptly, with far-reaching effects. The events of this past week or so have been a prime example. Continue reading “Over the Edge Lies Fear”
As our readers know, we do not provide investment advice. We do not exist to help people make money in the markets, but to help them avoid losing what they have in a deflationary crisis, at a time when almost everyone will lose a great deal. Our position is that being in cash on the sidelines is by far the safest option at this point, and where most people would be better off by far. Those who are still in the markets are playing a very dangerous game. Many of them know this perfectly well, but they can’t walk away from the casino. The upside is limited, possibly very limited, and the risks are steadily increasing.
Stock market bubbles (and housing bubbles etc) are ponzi schemes. As with all ponzi schemes, only a few manage to cash out, and the majority are those who do so early. Those who do not cash out become the designated empty bag holders, but that empty bag can look awfully attractive at a market top. Trying to catch the top tick, and wring every last ounce of profit out of a collapsing system, is foolish. Most investors who play that game are likely to lose badly. Continue reading “The Future Belongs to the Adaptable”
Humans are not good at the taking the long term view. Our ability to do so does vary significantly with circumstances though, depending on our perception of stability. When we collectively feel that tomorrow will be similar to today, and that we have our basic needs covered, then we are free to think about longer term concerns and the bigger picture.
In contrast, when we exist under circumstances of little forward visibility, and where we are not confident about our access to basic necessities, then the luxury of the long term disappears, and we are pitched into a state of short term crisis management.
Economics describes this parameter as a change in our discount rate. When the discount rate rises, it means that the future is discounted increasingly steeply in comparison to the present, so that today has far more value than next week, and almost infinitely more value than the far future. This has been the natural state for humanity throughout much of its existence. Continue reading “A Future Discounted”
In recent years, the prevailing financial orthodoxy has been that markets are efficient mechanisms for resource allocation based on the collective expression of rational human decision-making, the implication being that they are grounded in stabilising negative feedback. Markets have been seen as essentially dispassionate and objective arbiters of value, and their constant fluctuations as a random walk with no underlying pattern. It would follow therefore, that market timing would not be possible, and the best one could do would be to buy and hold a diversified group of equities chosen on the basis of perceived undervaluation. In my opinion, this model is simply delusional. As collective human endeavours, markets follow rules of collective, or herding, behaviour that are hardwired in us as they are in other mammals. Continue reading “Markets and the Lemming Factor”