Conspiracy theory fans, tin-foil hat wearers everywhere, Nostradamus wannabes, the broadly unhinged and, of course, our professional purveyors of doom and gloom roosting on evening cable news see patterns where there are none, embrace straight-line projections based on disparate and unrelated data and loudly and often shrilly bleat that the end is nigh.  That’s all

I wrote a week or two back about my expectation that significant economic dislocation awaits us.  I still think that.  The morning after I published, hordes (ok, maybe not hordes) of PhD Villeins were outside my house with pitchforks and burning torches, loudly asserting that I had wildly overstated the likelihood of material distress in the marketplace.  “No, no, no, the White House has assured us of a soft landing and a soft landing we’ll have.”  (The Council of Economic Advisers, not surprisingly, if professionally embarrassing, seem to think so, too.)  And, while inflation is bad, it’s not that bad.  (I don’t yet need a wheel barrel to buy bread!)  No recession, they perorate loudly and insistently.  We’ll be back to 2% inflation, sub 4% unemployment and 2% GNP growth by Q4 of 2023!
Continue Reading Life (and Opportunity) in the Time of Considerable Government Malfeasance

It’s coming up on awards season.  The Emmys were last week and weirdly, I got a thought bubble about nominees in the Black Swan category, walking the red carpet looking for attention!  Think the Masquerade scene from Phantom of the Opera when the Phantom comes prancing down the stairs to harsh the festivities (at least he sang well).  

We have some obvious nominees today.  But are they the real thing?  Will they move markets?  We have, with some reason, become inured to the disruptive headlines howling about threats to our way of life.  Is there simply too much chaos out there to pick out the things which are really relevant from the noise?  Our 24-hour news cycle is hardly helpful, is it?  The talking heads, with practiced expressions of concern, seriousness of purpose and faux competence, serve up our daily quantum of fear and distress (Film at 11!).  Don’t they seem almost gleeful to report yet another potential disaster?  With breathy anxiety, designed to tug at our atavistic fight or flight instincts, they repurpose as news exaggeration, hyperbole, vague allegations, unconfirmed reports and sheer speculation.

The scary part is, of course, that buried and obscured in all that noise might be real news, things that investors and market participants really ought to be paying attention to because they will matter.  The trick is sussing out the stuff that matters from the stuff that doesn’t.

So, we really do need to take into account these aspirational swans.  One of them could be that figurative dead archduke.

Let’s take a stroll along the red carpet and chat up some of these swans.Continue Reading Does A Red Carpet Full Of Black Swans Matter?

Happy Inauguration Day (I hope).

Every turning of the year makes for a convenient point to look backwards, and of course, forward, but this year seems to actually denote some sort of inflection point and, as a card-carrying member of the blogosphere, I feel compelled to burden you with my views as to what the next year will hold for us all.  I am unburdened by anxiety or discomfiture in doing so, as the prediction business is one of asymmetrical risk and reward.  An anodyne exercise, I trust.  No one actually expects talking heads to be right, and no one remembers when you’re wrong; but in the blind cat finding a dead mouse type of way, if you are right, you get to annoyingly trumpet your breathtakingly erudite and accurate prediction over and over again for the rest of the year.

After predicting a terrific 2020 last January, how wrong could I be this time?
Continue Reading Elections Matter: My Dead Nuts Certain Guarantees for 2021

I am trying to figure out how much I care, as a businessman (as opposed to an actual living, breathing human being), about the chaos swirling around us.  Every day’s news seems more the stuff of a dramatic conceit of someone’s next thriller than reality.  Throw in a car chase and some sex, and we’ve got a movie.  (The North Carolina sexting scandal doesn’t really get us there for this purpose.)
Continue Reading Inflection Point? How Much Change Are We Really Facing?

I’ve been offline for a bit.  An amalgam of writer’s block caused by the enormity of the Coronavirus mess – what can be said that’s useful – and the consequence of being wildly busy as everyone across financial markets tries to pivot to the new reality.  Unburdened by any knowledge of science, medicine or epidemiology, I have been marinating in the output of such intellectually distinguished journals as The Sun, The Daily Beast, The Onion, The Mirror, The New York Post and Drudge on the daily ups and downs of our plague, its cost in blood and treasure and the disruption it has caused across all aspects of our life.  Consequently, I have opinions but I’ve concluded they’re pretty damn worthless.  We’re in uncharted waters, akin to those bits on a medieval map where the cartographers had no clue and wrote: “Here be Dragons.”
Continue Reading Playing with Broken Toys in Coronavirus Land

Here is something helpful that has surfaced amidst the fallout, pain and confusion of the global COVID-19 crisis.  The implementation date for the all-too-simple in theory but not-simple-at-all in practice CECL accounting standard has been pushed back by the passage of the CARES Act for banks until the COVID-19 national emergency declared by the president ends or December 31, 2020, whichever is earlier.  In addition, an interim final rule released by the FRB, OCC and FDIC on Friday, March 27th, now provides an option to delay the effects of CECL on regulatory capital for two years (in addition to the original three-year transition period for banks required to adopt CECL during their 2020 fiscal year).  Banks opting to use both forms of relief would be subject to a modified transition period which would be reduced by the amount of quarters CECL was delayed due to the CARES Act.  No relief was provided for non-banks who are otherwise required to follow CECL.
Continue Reading CECL: The Ugly Pig Running Out of Lipstick

Trigger Warning:  If any of you, my readers, or your senior management, who might actually read this, are card carrying members of the global elite, please be assured that I am only talking about other people here. 

This season of election insanity, where only big ideas packaged in often eye rolling tropes have their day (you don’t get elected by saying, “Vote for me and I will make a couple of small annoying things just a little bit better”) got me thinking about where all these big ideas came from.  They come from think tanks, academics, opinion makers and talking heads of all sorts, of course, or, as they would say, the global opinion elite.Continue Reading Beware of Global Elites Bearing Consensus