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  • Black Swans and Endogenous Uncertainty

    John is in Florida and feeling a bit under the weather, so this week we’re bringing back one of his most popular letters, from December 2007. In the letter he discusses the work of Professor Graciela Chichilnisky of Columbia University, one of whose key insights is that the greater the number of connections within an economic network, the more the system is at risk. Given the current macroeconomic environment, it is important to remind ourselves of how complacent we were back in 2007 and how it all fell apart so quickly, just as John outlined in this rather prescient piece.

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  • The QE Sandpile

    Sell in May and go away? What about "risk off?" And ever more QE? Today's letter is a quick note and a reprise of a popular letter from yesteryear (with a bit of new slant), as I am at my conference in Carlsbad.

    But first, I thought I would shoot you a few quick, interesting notes that crossed my desk in the last week. It is almost a ritual for me to mention at this time of year the old investment saw, "Sell in May and go away." It has been surprisingly good advice in most years. My good friend Art Cashin is a curator (and prodigious progenitor) of investment wisdom. He offers these two insights from his research:

    Tomorrow is the beginning of May, so a "Sell in May" review is in order. To avoid reinventing the wheel, let me plagiarize the veteran Jim Brown's synopsis yesterday.

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  • How Change Happens

    "To trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying and gives moreover a feeling of power. Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown – the first instinct is to eliminate these distressing states. First principle: any explanation is better than none… The cause-creating drive is thus conditioned and excited by the feeling of fear …"

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  • Another Finger of Instability

    'To trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying and gives moreover a feeling of power. Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown - the first instinct is to eliminate these distressing states. First principle: any explanation is better than none... The cause-creating drive is thus conditioned and excited by the feeling of fear ...' Friedrich Nietzsche

    This weekend I turn 60 and have been a little more introspective than usual. I am often told that the letter I wrote well over three years ago on ubiquity and complexity theory and the future of the economy was the best letter I have ever done. I went back to read it, and it has aged well. I basically outlined how a financial crisis would unfold, and now it has.

    On reflection, I think that there are perhaps other, even larger, events in our future than the recent credit crisis and recession; yet, just as in 2006, there is a great deal of complacency. But as we will see, there are fingers of instability building up that have the potential to create large disruptions, both positive and negative, in our future. And for the political junkies in the room, I offer a brief insight into what may be one of the more intriguing behind-the-scenes developments in recent years. Now, to the letter.

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  • Black Swans and Endogenous Uncertainty

    Ubiquity, Complexity Theory and Sandpiles Fingers of Instability A Stable Disequilibrium General Equilibrium with Endogenous Uncertainty Identity Theft and New York How does the risk of default in California or Thailand get spread throughout the world...
  • Fingers of Instability

    Introduction "To trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying and gives moreover a feeling of power. Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown - the first instinct is to eliminate these distressing states...
  • Be careful what you wish for

    Introduction We are awash in debt, assert numerous authorities. And they point to the charts which show debt mounting seemingly to the sky. But not all debt is bad. Some of it is good. We should save more and spend less. But if we do, there are consequences...
  • A Stable Disequilibrium

    Introduction This week we look at a speech given by Paul McCulley (Managing Director at PIMCO funds) at my recent Accredited Investor Conference in La Jolla. In it he introduces to us the concept of a stable disequilibrium to describe the state of affairs...