Market dislocations occur when financial markets, operating under stressful conditions, experience large widespread asset mispricing.
Welcome to this week’s edition of “World Out Of Whack” where every Wednesday we take time out of our day to laugh, poke fun at and present to you absurdity in global financial markets in all its glorious insanity.
While we enjoy a good laugh, the truth is that the first step to protecting ourselves from losses is to protect ourselves from ignorance. Think of the “World Out Of Whack” as your double thick armour plated side impact protection system in a financial world littered with drunk drivers.
Selfishly we also know that the biggest (and often the fastest) returns come from asymmetric market moves. But, in order to identify these moves we must first identify where they live.
Occasionally we find opportunities where we can buy (or sell) assets for mere cents on the dollar – because, after all, we are capitalists.
In this week’s edition of the WOW we’re covering military miscalculations
When it comes to the stock and bond markets, the mandate’s pretty simple. Deny, then inflate another bubble. The central banks will continue to do this until the market takes their ability to do so away. It’s going to be quite something to witness.
What about geopolitics, though?
This is a bit trickier to determine, though for anyone with a history book or two thumbs and a search engine we know it can affect asset prices and global capital flows in ways that central bankers only wished they could.
NATO’s biggest buildup on Russia’s borders since the cold war. That’s what the Guardian’s calling it.
“Britain is sending fighter jets next year to Romania. The US is dispatching troops, tanks and artillery to Poland. Germany, Canada and other Nato countries also pledged forces at a meeting on Wednesday of defence chiefs in Brussels.”
NATO is already wobblier than a 2 year old without trainer wheels, and EU disintegration will continue to accelerate as nationalistic parties are elected across Europe. With an increasing focus on protecting their self interests rather than that of Europe, NATO’s days are probably numbered.
Germany, the strongest military power in Europe will remain reluctant to “lead the charge” due to it’s …ahem history, and the Brits reeling from Brexit have little appetite for military aggression, and that really leaves the empire. You see Europe is going to continue building walls. That’s defensive not aggressive.
Then of course there is the South China sea dispute.
Gone are the days when challenging the empire was a no-no. Tis no trivial matter.
China will continue to flex its muscles. After all its achilles heel is that its access to global sea lanes is blocked by a ring of small islands. Controlling these is both militarily strategic as well as economically strategic. America will increasingly be put to the test.
The Empire’s Involvement
Let me be clear. America is not threatened in any way. No foreign power will attack the US. But then they don’t need to. Osama Bin Liner did more damage with a rag tag army of sandal-wearing goat herders than any nation state has managed to do since WWII. Like all empires in their final years, the threat comes from within. Washington doing what Washington does: something incredibly stupid.
Which of course brings us to crook vs jerk.
It’s one reason the American elections actually matter this time around, which makes this Presidential election unusual.
Trump wants to “make America great”. War with Russia appears thankfully not to have crossed his mind.
My guess is he’d rather build a new hotel in Moscow and bring reality TV to the White House than sit in
the radiation footprint Washington after poking the bear.
Hillary, on the other hand, is all for it. Her military understanding being that of steamed spinach, and being surrounded by an entire cadre of imbeciles who’ve gone before her: Bush, Cheney, Obama, that guy Bill.
In a recent speech she made her stance very clear:
“Our power comes with a responsibility to lead, humbly, thoughtfully, and with a fierce commitment to our values — because when America fails to lead we leave a vacuum that either causes chaos or other countries or networks rushing to fill the void.”
Oh, you mean like the power vacuums in the middle east now filled by ISIS?
And this doozy:
“We can’t cozy up to dictators, we have to stand up to them.”
Surely she can’t be referring to her push to take down Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. That gambit left Libya in absolute chaos, resulting in the terror group Daesh rising in power and displacing an estimated 400,000 people, all of them mad at America and Europeans and now targeting them in their home towns.
She seems eager to step up the game from her predecessors who made a habit of only attacked small third world countries with sand.
“We need to respond to evolving threats, from states like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.”
“We need a military that is ready and agile so that it can meet the full range of threats — and operate on short notice across every domain — not just land, sea, air, and space, but also cyber space.”
Russia, sweetheart, is a nuclear power. China, a nuclear power.
Iran and North Korea? Look cupcake, if you can’t control a tiny pile of sand like Iraq, pray tell how you’re going to go after Iran.
The voting populace doesn’t want it.
“Let me just relax and watch gratuitous violence on Netflix, dammit. And I don’t give a hoot about Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or Yemen and I sure as hell don’t want to pay for it.”
Even those who can’t read (a substantial and growing number) question why on earth US troops loiter in far flung places being terribly unsuccessful – repeatedly.
The shortlist of active candidates doesn’t look pretty either:
- Iraq? a mess with no control and a power vacuum (as discussed in “7 Steps to the Easiest Short in Recent History.”) which looks a whole lot worse than Saddam.
- Afghanistan? Disaster. Still no control. Billions spent.
- Libya? Whoohoo, Gaddafi is overthrown and now the refugees can pour into Europe unrestrained. Oops, hadn’t thought of that. Actions have consequences. Someone ought to tell these guys.
- The war in Somalia where US forces are fighting a clandestine war against rebels sucks more capital from the US treasury. But never mind, the world still wants US debt… until it doesn’t.
- The Saudis propped up by Washington are now murdering Yemenis. Wining friends and influencing people folks.
- Assad is bad and so supporting ISIS in Syria while fighting them in Iraq, Afghanistan and increasingly on US streets is logical. What was the definition of insanity again?
I could list many more but you get the picture.
In fact, the US has over 1,400 military bases in over 120 countries. Not bad for a country which is importing capital rather than exporting it.
And while this is happening, the rest of the world pivots.
Russia is getting chummy with Iran, China, and now Turkey, which for scholars of history is the pivotal access point for both Europe and the Arab world. The Asian countries increasingly move East towards China, the latest being Duterte of the Philippines who has promised to kick the US out.
“For as long as I am there, do not treat us like a doormat because you’ll be sorry for it. I will not speak with you. I can always go to China.”
Maybe it’s just me but “go to hell you son of a whore” sounds awfully like Asia pivoting away from the US. Puts a bit of a spanner in the Obama administrations “Pivot Asia” foreign policy plan.
Some Troubling Signs
What has been troubling to watch from afar and as a non-American who typically doesn’t care who wins most elections, is the very obvious prepping of war Hillary’s camp has been doing over the last few months.
The Russians are hacking the election, they’re dangerous, they’re expanding, they’re killing
ISIS civilians in Syria, and they may even be the cause of global warming climate change not to mention diabetes.
It stands to reason: after all, Bill managed to distract an easily distracted electorate from his affair with Monica Lewinsky by launching missiles at Sudan. Why not threaten Russia to distract from the now daily barrage of revelations about the Clinton crime syndicate?
Peter Thiel stated the threat lucidly in his recent address at the National Press club:
“Now Hillary Clinton has called for a no fly zone over Syria. Incredibly that would be a mistake even more reckless than invading Iraq, since most of the planes flying over Syria today are Russian planes, Clintons proposed course of action would do worse than involve us in a messy civil war, it would risk a direct nuclear conflict.”
Trump is a blowhard and Hillary part of the deep state. Happy days!
And now it seems that the outcome rests on a large swathe of the electorate drunk on football, Kim Kardashian’s latest antics, and prime time TV. Geopolitical knowledge? Not featuring so much.
The risk is that Washington in desperation does something phenomenally stupid rather than simply dumb which it’s proven itself quite adept at.
The empire will continue to lose its grip but if history is any indication (and it is) then it may not do so quietly.
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Investing and protecting our capital in a world which is enjoying the most severe distortions of any period in mans recorded history means that a different approach is required. And traditional portfolio management fails miserably to accomplish this.
And so our goal here is simple: protecting the majority of our wealth from the inevitable consequences of absurdity, while finding the most asymmetric investment opportunities for our capital. Ironically, such opportunities are a result of the actions which have landed the world in such trouble to begin with.
“Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.” — Groucho Marx