Friday, May 07, 2010

The warning shot heard round the world


All of a sudden everyone started screaming back and forth across the room “Fuck, don’t believe the screens this can’t be right“, yelled one trader, an IT guys popped his head up “hey, what’s wrong everything was ok a minute ago….. SHIT! That ain’t right.”

Such were the opening moments of yesterday’s crash/glitch/clusterfuck on a Canadian Bank’s trading floor as reported by a friend of mine. There was nothing confidential or secretive about what he told me, mostly he just explained his utter disbelief that complex trading systems would not notice and default a aberrant sized trade like the one some analysts claim started yesterdays run, yet traders tell him it sometimes happens. He’s also often amazed at how isolated traders from the real world but that’s another story.

I too find it disconcerting that these big banks, trading houses, and exchanges which process more artificial wealth than really exists don’t have any sort of failsafe to abort truly huge and obviously bogus/erroneous trades. I actually don’t find it surprising, just very unnerving. After all, we know that risk and money making is name of the game and whether it’s selling fake paper silver, leveraging ones position 30-40X or drilling deep water wells without a $500,000 dollar part that could avoid a blow out, people will eventually screw up. These complex systems which everyone relies on are no place to be cutting corners but people are stupid and markets reward risk not prudence.

The irrationality of markets where you can sell more derivatives than the entire value of decades of world GDP is staggering. The ability to sell stocks you don’t own or which in some cases don’t exist is irrational at best. The selling of commodities that can’t be delivered is unethical and should be illegal, yet these are the normal behaviour of our markets. If you’re not scared yet you’re a fool!

Speaking of prudence what the hell are people thinking running to the U.S dollar as a safe haven? If you looked at the risk of U.S monetary collapse for today only, things look pretty good but that’s not the point. Converting to the U.S. dollar as a safe heaven is akin to moving from Poland to the Ukraine in 1939, yes you’ve saved your ass for the moment but eventually a Panzer will still come through the front door. To be truly safe people need to move into physical bullion before the there is a real default in the Euro zone, U.K, U.S. or Japan.

I hope you noticed I didn’t say IF there is a real default because at this point it’s virtually impossible that it won’t happen. Just look at the EU’s big Greek bailout which requires Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland along with the more solvent states to cut Greece a cheque. How the hell can 4 countries which are being downgraded and will require their own bail out chip in to cover Greece’s bar tab? Does that make sense to you? Of course in these days of fiat currency they could just institute a rash of currency devaluations/inflation. In my opinion destroying your currency so you can pay back dollars with pennies is a de facto default.

I’ve predicted for a couple of years that the EU was in danger of splintering and I think its inevitable now. Of course those Germans who think it’s a good idea have yet to realized that balkanization does nothing to safeguard their banking system which holds a great deal of the bad PIIGS debt. Either way Germany is screwed but a regional recovery would be more manageable when the corpse of southern Europe is unshackled from the North.

I'm not the only one talking about monetization or EU members leaving the union

Yesterday was a warning shot to point out that the market is to big, to complex, to reliant on computer trading programs that are obviously not adequately safeguarded, and filled with too many fraudulent/ethereal products. At this point the system is broken and likely impossible to fix. In addition the debt markets are in a mess with the demand for debt greater than the supply of credit hence the large monetization’s happening in the U.S. Most western countries deserve their debt to be rated junk and nearly all U.S. munibonds should be well below junk by now. In my opinion every paper promise is worth no more than 40% of its stated value, while productive land and physical commodities are worth several times their current value.

My advice for people would be start buying that gold and silver now while you still can, especially the silver considering the FCDC hearings on market concentration, and the rumours of a Department of Justice antitrust investigation regarding JP Morgan’s silver trading practices.

Stock up on food, water purification equipment, seeds and medicine. (I know someone will add personal defence items and that’s your call but I don’t need that conversation here.)

Dump non commodity based equities. For those stocks you insist on holding long term like dividend stocks, demand delivery of your certificates even if you have to pay for the service. Also make sure you vote your shares so the company can gage how big the illegitimate float is.

Vacation close to home and/or spend the money making your house and lifestyle more resilient to disruptions in energy supply.

Learn to garden.

Get to know and make common cause with your neighbours. Central government will be of no use in a collapse, community will be invaluable.

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