On May 17th 1792, twenty-four stock brokers met under a buttonwood tree outside 68 Wall Street and agreed to set up the New York Stock and Exchange board. The tree was a symbol of Wall Street, but also, it was where people originally met to trade, to discuss and to argue.
The Economist has done an excellent job of keeping the tradition alive by bringing together top global financial executives, policymakers, global regulators and opinion leaders to discuss and debate proposed guidelines for the financial community, seeking to bridge fundamental financial issues with macroeconomic and geopolitical viewpoints.
As I mentioned yesterday, I usually don’t like conferences but not only did I find myself sitting between BOE Governor Mervyn King and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz but we got to watch my favorite economics rap video together and even met the guys who created it from EconStories, who have lots of good videos on their site (of a more serious nature).
The conference itself does not take itself too seriously. Even Nassim Taleb was able to make a few jokes while explaining to us why the financial system is irrevocably screwed up unless we give it a major overhaul. Taleb’s main points were:
People are inherently greedy.
The Financial Crisis was caused by and increase of hidden risks that was encouraged by the rules set forth in Basel II
Multiple exposure to low-probability, high-risk events accumulate to high probability of bad outcome (Taleb’s "Black Swan").
Bonus packages and compensation encourage very bad risky behavior. Stock options that offer potential upside and no downside encourage the maxing of risk-taking by potential beneficiaries.
This leads to a banking system where all the traders get rich and all the investors become poor.
There is a general,.chronic underestimation of risk and business schools reinforce this bad behavior.
Regulation gives investors a false sense of security.
Capitalism must be symmetrical – bonus without penalties (clawbacks, etc.) must be eliminated.
When I am at one of these conferences, I like to watch the audience reaction to what is being said. Here we have a gathering of the World’s movers and shakers and sometimes the reaction to what is being said is more important than the thing that is said. For instance, my note on Taleb’s comment that regulations give investors a false sense of security is that…
The market value of the high yield FINRA-BLP Active U.S. Corporate Bond Index relative to its investment grade counterpart has now exceeded the level seen in May 2007, at the peak of the credit bubble.
If you ask me, it looks like risk-taking is back with a vengeance.
This is interesting. However, the conclusion that "individuals with antisocial personality disorder may not be unaware of… consequences… but instead that their intense reward-seeking motivation consumes their attention wholly until they have fulfilled their desire for reward" seems overstated, and only a small piece of the psychopath puzzle.
For a different perspective, that of a financial writer, and an even farther-fetched conclusion, read the second article below. The same data can be interpreted to show that a trader taking on excessive risk is "hopped up on dopamine" so they can’t see negative consequences, making them "kind of a psychopath." Take all this with a grain of salt haloperidol. - Ilene
An overactive dopamine reward system in the brain may help explain why psychopaths pursue rewards without regard for consequences, according to new research published this week in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Previous research has found that individuals who suffer from antisocial personality disorder—often referred to as sociopathology or psychopathology, despite debate over whether these are distinct conditions—lack empathy and fear. Yet this new study, from researchers at Vanderbilt University examines what these individuals may have in excess. According to the study, led by Joshua Buckholtz, a graduate student in psychology at Vanderbilt, individuals with antisocial personality disorder traits show signs of dysfunction in dopamine reward systems—suggesting that, in psychopaths, the drive toward reward can overwhelm all else.
Prior to participating in two different experiments, study subjects completed personality tests to identify presence and severity of psychopathic characteristic—including aggression, lack of empathy, and capacity for manipulation, among other things. Drawing on previous research that has established a strong link between substance abuse and psychopathology, in the first experiment researchers gave participants amphetamine, then used functional Magentic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) brain scans to monitor how dopamine release was affected by the stimulant. In a second experiment, study participants were told that they would be paid for performing a simple task, and researchers conducted brain scans while they completed the tasks.
In both experiments, researchers found that participants who had psychopathic characteristics according to the personality test, were more likely than those without those traits to have greater activity in the nucleus accumbens, the area of the brain associated with dopamine reward processing—whether in response to the chemical stimulant, or the suggestion of monetary reward.
On average stock traders lose money. So do people who play the lottery. Yet both sets of people will often buy insurance as well. On one hand people are risk takers, engaging in risky and usually unprofitable activities, yet on the other they’re risk adverse, looking to protect themselves against possible, although often unlikely, losses.
Mostly we don’t find this particularly odd. Yet it poses a particular problem for economists and psychologists trying to disentangle the various threads that make up the skein of the human condition. They feel we should either be risk seekers or risk fearers: to be simultaneously both suggests something strange is going on. Stock pickers take note: sell insurers, buy lotteries. Or is it the other way around?
Markowitz’s Lottery Puzzle
One of the earliest researchers to note this gambling/insurance peculiarity was Harry Markowitz who we’ve met before in Markowitz’s Portfolio Theory and the Efficient Frontier. In the same year he published the paper that eventually led to modern Portfolio Theory, the efficient markets mayhem and a Nobel Prize he also wrote The Utility of Wealth in which he both described this confused risk model and sought to explain it.
It’s a bit of surprise to find the father of rational investing theories elaborating on a subject which describes how irrational people really are. However his two 1952 papers are linked. While The Utility of Wealth describes how people really behave Portfolio Selection describes how they should behave to maximise their wealth. We can’t blame Markowitz for the investment industry using his ideas with all the subtlety of a Mob family collecting a debt from the man who wasted their mother with a cheesegrater.
Models which really aim to describe the way humans deal with risk are deluded and denuded if they exclude the risk-seeking part of the human experience. Deluded because they ignore the evidence of everyday life and denuded because they strip away the essence of human experience. Humanity would still be trolling around on its knuckles in East Africa if curiosity about what was on the other side of the forest canopy hadn’t…
There’ve been a lot of studies that indicate that women make better investors than men. They’re less inclined to overtrade, which reduces the fees they pay and means they start with an inbuilt advantage. However, there’s not been much analysis of why this behaviour occurs.
For it’s not self-evident that the lack of a pair of testicles should automatically make you a better investor. The pop-psychological view that this is due to surges of testosterone driving risk taking actions by red-blooded alpha males is highly seductive, but also pretty useless. Humans are uniquely evolved to allow us to override the urgings of of our genes, regardless of what sex organs they endow us with.
Cool Female Heads
However, there’s not much doubt that the basic finding – that women are less active traders and produce better returns on average over the long-term – is correct. Odean and Barber showed this in their 2001 study on overconfidence for instance. What’s more interesting, though, is how easily the idea that this is simply due to non-eradicable sex differences is accepted. In fact some observers have gone so far as to suggest that market extremes could be avoided by ensuring more women are present in investment houses – the idea being, presumably, that the cooler headed females will reduce the hot-headed male impulses to trade irrationally.
Like hell. More likely, of course, the presence of additional women would simply stimulate the men into ever more risky trades in feverish attempts to impress them: taking risks may have benefits that don’t translate into pure financial advantage. Meanwhile any women interested enough to get involved in market trading are more likely to do so in order to become rich rather than to act as a self-regulating safety valve for their male colleagues.
Now before we can investigate this more we need to take a careful look at what causes sex differences. It’s perfectly obvious that our genes have fitted males and females differently for the purposes of reproduction but beyond that it’s surprisingly difficult to definitively tease apart the influences of genes and environment. Even the well known male map reading advantage can be traced to the greater willingness of parents to allow young
The most important force that has lifted the US dollar across the board is the sense, encouraged by official comments, of the potential divergence in the trajectory of monetary policy between the US and most of the other major high income countries.
In particular, the pendulum of market psychology has swung back toward speculation of tapering off of QE-related asset purchases by the Federal Reserve. At the same time, ECB officials continue to indicate they are carefully considering a negative deposit rate. Many still expect the Bank of England to resume its gilt purchases program and new initiatives on its forward guidance in Q3 after Carney takes the helm.
As if sniffing at the threat the ongoing collapse in JGBs, culminated by Toyota pulling a bond issue on soaring yields, which forced even JPM to come out with an ominously titled piece called the "VaR Shock" driven by the epic plunge in the Yen, Japan's economy minister Akira Amari has hit the wires saying "the yen's excessive strength has been largely "corrected," and further weakness could be harmful, Japan's economy minister said Sunday, suggesting the Japanese government may be happy with the currency's current level....
Note from dshort: In response to a special request and in light of the strong market performance in the S&P 500 and meteoric rise in the Nikkei 225, I've updated my Mega-Bear weekly chart series through Friday's close.
It's time again for an update of our "Real" Mega-Bears, an inflation-adjusted overlay of three secular bear markets. It aligns the current S&P 500 from the top of the Tech Bubble in March 2000, the Dow in of 1929, and the Nikkei 225 from its 1989 bubble high.
The chart below is consistent with my preference for real (inflation-adjusted) analysis of long-term market behavior. The nominal all-time high in the index occurred in October 2007, but when we adjust for inflation, the "real" all-time high for the S&P 500 occurred in March 2000.
Global X, the New York-based ETF sponsor known for its unique lineup of commodities and emerging markets funds, announced six of its ETFs will be reverse split, including three gold mining-related funds.
The $29.4 million Global X Gold Explorers ETF (NYSE: GLDX) will undergo a 1-for-4 reverse split while the $2.78 million Global X Junior Miners ETF (NYSE: JUNR) will see a 1-for-3 reverse split. The Global X Pure Gold Miners ETF (NYSE: ...
It seems that every Tuesday in 2013 since January 8 has been positive on the Dow. And this past Tuesday was no exception. Now that sounds like a trend to put money on -- buy the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA) at the close each Monday and close out the position late on Tuesday.
The Dow and S&P 500 both hit new all-time highs once again on Wednesday, while the Nasdaq hit its highest level since November 2000. The “risk on” allocation of new investment capital into cyclicals continues, although Wednesday saw leadership from defensive sectors Consumer Staples, Utilities, and Telecom, along with Financials. Nevertheless, ConvergEx reports that the average correlation of the ten S&P business sectors to the overall index averaged 82% last month. While that is below the 86% averag...
BMY - Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. – Shares in drug maker, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., are ripping higher today, up 6.5% at $44.94, the highest level in more than a decade, ahead of the release of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2013 Annual Meeting abstracts tonight. The ASCO Annual Meeting begins on May 31st in Chicago. Options on BMY are far more active than usual today, with overall volume topping 64,000 contracts by 12:25 p.m. ET, versus average daily volume of around 11,400 c...
We are starting to see some very extreme readings on our monthly and weekly index charts since there has been no correction this year. I posted below first the monthly chart of the S&P 500 going back 15 years showing bollinger bands – rarely do we get above the upper one, and never have we been this far above. Then below that I posted (with 4 charts of 4 years each) the weekly data and you can see we are at a rare time we are above the weekly bollinger band as well. This non stop rally is getting very historical.
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Stock market posts another record setting week, but the big news came after Friday’s close.
Courtesy of NASA
The stock market put on another record setting show with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEARCA:DIA) closing at a record high 15,118 and the S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) closing at 1633.70, another all time closing high.
For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEARCA:DIA) gained 1%, the S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) climbed 1.2%, the Nasdaq Composite (NYSEARCA:...
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Well, well, well....it is good to know that there are others in the scientific arena who believed that YMI Bioscience's data (cough - Gilead) is a better drug than Incyte's Jakafi. Now, the definitive data are still unknown, but there was enough evidence from a Phase 2 trial to take a small risk for a huge reward. So, let's forget about Apple (AAPL), and do nothing but biotechs from now until Congress passes universal health care coverage for prescriptions....and drive the prices down so that research and development is no longer feasible to conduct in the US. Even Seattle Genetics (SGEN) has been on a tear as of late...
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