Posts filed under “Really, really bad calls”
I love this excerpt from GMO’s quarterly update, by Jeremy Grantham:
1. The Story So Far: Greed + Incompetence + A Belief in Market Efﬁciency = Disaster
“Greed and reckless overconﬁdence on the part of almost everyone caused us to ignore risk to a degree that is probably unparalleled in breadth and depth in American history. Even more remarkable was the lack of insight and basic competence of our leadership, which led them to ignore this development, or worse, to encourage it. Ingenious new ﬁnancial instruments certainly facilitated and exaggerated these weaknesses, but they were not the most potent ingredient in our toxic stew. That honor goes to the economic establishment for building over many decades a belief in rational expectations: reasonable, economically-induced behavior that would always guarantee approximately efﬁcient markets. In their desire for mathematical order and elegant models, the economic establishment played down the inconveniently large role of bad behavior, career risk management, and ﬂat-out bursts of irrationality.
The dominant economic theorists so valued orderliness and rationality that they actually grew to believe it, and this false conviction became increasingly dangerous. It was why Greenspan and Bernanke were not sure that bubbles – outbursts of serious irrationality – could even exist. It was why Bernanke, who had studied the bubble of 1929, could still not see it as proof of irrationality and could still view the Depression (à la Milton Friedman) as a mere consequence of incredibly bad, easily avoidable policy measures.
Of more recent importance, it was why Bernanke could dismiss a dangerous 100-year bubble in U.S. housing as being nonexistent. It was why Hyman Minsky was marginalized as an economist despite his brilliant insight of the “near inevitability” of periodic ﬁnancial crises. It was why the suggestion in academic circles of stock market inefﬁciencies, let alone major dysfunctionality, was considered a heresy. It was why Burton Malkiel could rationalize the 1987 crash as being an efﬁcient response to 12 or so triggers. These triggers, however, had a trivial weakness: seasoned portfolio managers at the time had never even heard of most of them. Never underestimate the power of a dominant academic idea to choke off competing ideas, and never underestimate the unwillingness of academics to change their views in the face of evidence. They have decades of their research and their academic standing to defend.
The incredibly inaccurate efﬁcient market theory was believed in totality by many of our ﬁnancial leaders, and believed in part by almost all. It left our economic and governmental establishment sitting by conﬁ dently, even as a lethally dangerous combination of asset bubbles, lax controls, pernicious incentives, and wickedly complicated instruments led to our current plight. “Surely none of this could happen in a rational, efﬁ cient world,” they seemed to be thinking. And the absolutely worst aspect of this belief set was that it led to a chronic underestimation of the dangers of asset bubbles breaking – the very severe loss of perceived wealth and the stranded debt that comes with a savage write-down of assets. Well, it’s nice to get that off my chest once again!
GMO QUARTERLY LETTER January 2009
Jeremy Grantham co-founded GMO in 1977. Prior to GMO’s founding, Mr. Grantham was co-founder of Batterymarch Financial Management in 1969 where he recommended commercial indexing in 1971, one of several claims to being first. He began his investment career as an economist with Royal Dutch Shell. Mr. Grantham serves as GMO’s Chairman and is an active member of GMO’s asset allocation division. He has also served on investment boards of several non-profit organizations. Mr. Grantham has been featured in Forbes, Barron’s and Business Week and is routinely quoted by the financial press. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Sheffield (U.K.) and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.
I am speaking at an AEI panel today, with Tim Bitsberger, Joshua Rosner of Graham Fisher & Co., Walker Todd, of the American Institute for Economic Research, and R. Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics. Summary: The credit crunch and financial panic of 2008 triggered a remarkable series of government interventions and bailouts, including huge…Read More
On Sunday night, Mike Shedlock lobbed a hand grenade Peter Schiff’s way (here, and mirrored here). Around late 2008, some PR flacks were circulating a Schiff’s greatest hits — short excerpts of his appearances on major media. It was apparent to me that these heavily edited clips were not coming from random readers, but rather,…Read More
Mike Shedlock / Mish is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction.
There are numerous YouTube videos, articles, and references to Peter Schiff being “right” rapidly circulating the globe. While Schiff was indeed correct about the US imploding, most of the praise heaped on Schiff is simply unwarranted, and I can prove it.
First, let’s start with a look at the claim being made. Peter Schiff concludes many of his articles, books, etc. with the following statement.
Mr. Schiff is one of the few non-biased investment advisors (not committed solely to the short side of the market) to have correctly called the current bear market before it began and to have positioned his clients accordingly.
Highlight in red is mine.
I would like to see some proof of that statement. Specifically I would like to see the average returns posted by EuroPacific clients for 2008.
I have talked with many who claim they have invested with Schiff and are down anywhere from 40% to 70% in 2008. There are many other such claims on the internet. They are entirely believable for the simple reason Schiff’s investment thesis was flat out wrong.
I have an actual portfolio statement from one of Schiff’s clients at the end to discuss, for now let’s discuss the main points of Schiff’s thesis.
Schiff’s Overall Thesis
- US Equity Markets Will Crash.
- US Dollar Will Go To Zero (Hyperinflation).
- Decoupling (The rest of the world would be immune to a US slowdown.
- Buy foreign equities and commodities and hold them with no exit strategy.
Schiff was correct about point number 1 above. The US equity markets crashed. That was a very good call. Unfortunately, his investment thesis centered on shorting the dollar in a hyperinflation bet, and buying foreign equities rather than shorting US equities.
Furthermore, Schiff made no allowances for being wrong and had no exit strategy whatsoever.
What happened in 2008 was that foreign equities sold off much harder than US equities, and a strengthening US dollar compounded the situation.
In other words, Schiff failed where it matters most: Peter Schiff did not protect his client’s assets. Let’s take a look how, and more importantly why, starting with charts of various foreign indices.
click on any chart in this post for a sharper image
$SSEC Shanghai Stock Exchange Weekly
$TSX – Canada TSX Weekly Chart
$AORD Australia ASX Weekly Chart
$SPX S&P 500 Weekly
2008 was a global equities bloodbath. Clearly there was no decoupling. The Shanghai index (China), Nikkei (Japan), TSX (Canada), AORD (Australia), and virtually every world equity index collapsed along with the S&P 500, the DOW, and Nasdaq in the US.
Many, if indeed not most, foreign equity markets did worse than the US indices. The Shanghai index fell from 6124 to 1665, a whopping 72.8% decline top to bottom.
Let’s investigate why this happened, starting with the decoupling thesis itself.
Princeton professor Alan Blinder identifies the 6 key policy errors that were the key elements in the financial crisis. He especially notes that this was not a neccessary outcome of capitalism, but rather, was the result of six avoidable errors. And while the professor calls them “human errors” he himself errs — these were not…Read More
Since I am in Grand Cayman, a British Overseas Territory, I thought it only appropriate to note that its now official: the UK joins the US in the ranks of formally being in an announced — and pronounced — recession. The British economy contracted 1.8% for the 2008 calendar year. For the first time since…Read More
Fascinating discussion via Wired‘s Clive Thompson, and Stanford historian of science Robert Proctor, on Agnotology: “When it comes to many contentious subjects, our usual relationship to information is reversed: Ignorance increases. [Proctor] has developed a word inspired by this trend: agnotology. Derived from the Greek root agnosis, it is “the study of culturally constructed ignorance.”…Read More
Part of the story about the Madoff Ponzi scheme was that Madoff created this elusive, difficult-to-become-a-member club. The exclusivity and rejections made membership all the more desirable to greedy investors. That actually is turning out to be somewhat of a myth. There is much more to his canny trick of rejecting investors than initially meets…Read More
Last night’s 60 Minutes had a story on Oil Speculation. Its not that they said anything that was factually wrong per se, its more that they told 10% of the story of the rise and fall of energy prices. The entire report was surprisingly thin, and avoided discussing all of the many other factors that…Read More