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Financial Markets, Politics and the New Reality
August 9, 2012 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Financial Markets, Politics and the New Reality: "Louis M. Bacon is the head of Moore Capital Management, one of the largest and most influential hedge funds in the world. Last week, he announced that he was returning one quarter of his largest fund, about $2 billion, to his investors, [saying] it is impossible to make money when there is heavy political involvement, because political involvement introduces unpredictability in the market… Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who modern investors so admire, [never] used the term "economics" by itself, but only in conjunction with politics; they called it political economy… The investors' problem is that they mistake the period between 1991 and 2008 as the norm and keep waiting for it to return."
posted by the mad poster! (36 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Without political involvement the Eurozone will collapse. Without political involvement the Eurozone would never have existed in the first place. Without political involvement there is no such thing as money. The dismal science, indeed.
posted by mek at 1:09 PM on August 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


That is because politics is people, politics is people!!!!
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:22 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nice find, I was impressed with the analogy with High Frequency Trading, and it helps explain that the "problems" we've had over the last few years with large "mistakes" consisting of selling and buying outside the predicted limits of the automated trading programs. It's possible that the "problem" is a failure of imagination on the part of the programmers in recognizing the increased volatility of the political situation.

I'm not sure I believe that yet, but it's an interesting take on the situtation.
posted by bswinburn at 1:23 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


so the problem is people then.
without them, economics would be pure.
time we got rid of people once and for all.
posted by philip-random at 1:23 PM on August 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


That is what I've been telling people for years.
A 100% robot economy
robots buying
robots trading
robots selling
humans watching
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:25 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh this is a terrible terrible article.

Markets aren't very exciting the last few years, Moore has more capital than it knows what to with and is hamstrung as a result, Bacon himself has more capital than any human being could ever spend and he's just saying "Fuck it. I'll take my ball and go home. This isn't worth the stress anymore" Everything else is just window dressing for that decision.
posted by JPD at 1:34 PM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


You mean exciting like 2008?
posted by jfuller at 1:37 PM on August 9, 2012


Louis Bacon appears to want it both ways; his analysis has the ring of correctness to it because he "blames" politicians and the market for their inability to adapt. Here's my question: adapt to what? The vagaries of the unpredictability of the other, meaning the poor transparencies that exist within the market, and within the political sphere, caused by the big-time players in these spheres of influence? Look, hedge funds have been able to pay off enough politicians to effect a huge advantage in the so-called political economy that Bacon is talking about. Also, who gives a flying fuck about all those "poor folks' who need at least a cool $1Million to play in that unregulated sandbox? I sure don't!

All the one-percenters thought that they had it under control, but the lack of transparency in these markets has resulted in all hell breaking loose, with most of the one-percenters who play in the rarified "political-economy" of high finance getting bailed out by you and me!

Frankly, I hope the Euro fails; it was a sucker-born-every-day move in the first place. What we have yet to do - worldwide - is create TRUE financial transparency. Just look at the American financial system - a lot of the same crap that went down 3 years ago is still going on! Any large scale prosecution of bankers? Any front page articles on the NYT about how Goldman-Sachs was Obama's largest bundler in 2008, and how both candidates in 2008 had mostly Wall St.-related firms in their top-20 contribution list?

As for Bacon, he comes off as a disingenuous crybaby - just like all the other mega-billionaires who have been manipulating commercial paper and inventing algorithms that often only a quantum physicist can understand (really!).

Just look at the mess that we're in. Yeah, it's their fault, and it's OUR fault, for getting to comfortable with politicians and the mega-rich when they say "trust us" every four years. (same goes for Europe, and everywhere else).

Money is on the wire; it has no fealty to national borders. Until we find a way to create real political transparency, we are seriously screwed!

As for Bacon, he's dining well this evening. I could care less about him! Mr. Bacon, how about putting a significant % of your wealth to help out some of the poor folk that the financial laws that you and your type helped to get passed (i.e. bought, via campaign contributions) have helped to ruin. If you did that I might say that you had something to offer. Anything else that that is just a great big whine!
posted by Vibrissae at 1:38 PM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Markets and politicians are struggling to avoid adapting to a reality that involves losing half or more of the "growth" of the last 30 years (that was purely on paper), and falling into a Depression as bad or worse than the one in the '20s-'30s. It's a good time to cash out and go home, and Bacon won't be the last.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:42 PM on August 9, 2012


The only reason anyone can make money off the market is because it is unpredictable. If you could predict the market precisely then we would have full service Communism.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:43 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


JPD, the fact that there's so much capital sitting around with nothing to do is a problem for a permanent growth based approach to finance/economics. The problem is that there's no real demand or way to untap potential demand that's why we have these bubbles that use the fig leaf of credit/lending to pretend there's real consumption. The political decisions that affect markets are going to be key to undoing this problem. What do you find terrible about the article?
posted by the mad poster! at 1:43 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


So he returns 1/4 of his investors money and makes a big statement about politics and the economy. What advantage is there to him? Less money, means less fees, right? There has to be some other angle here, maybe he can make more money (or appear to) with a smaller fund or he's using this to gain prestige or make a political statement. I bet this comes with a change in the terms of his fund, larger fees or something like that by making it harder to invest in his fund people might pay more.
posted by PJLandis at 1:43 PM on August 9, 2012


What advantage is there to him? Less money, means less fees, right? There has to be some other angle here, maybe he can make more money (or appear to) with a smaller fund or he's using this to gain prestige or make a political statement.

He gets paid a lot more to run a smaller better performing fund than he does to run a bigger fund with lower returns.
posted by JPD at 1:47 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


JPD, the fact that there's so much capital sitting around with nothing to do is a problem for a permanent growth based approach to finance/economics. The problem is that there's no real demand or way to untap potential demand that's why we have these bubbles that use the fig leaf of credit/lending to pretend there's real consumption. The political decisions that affect markets are going to be key to undoing this problem. What do you find terrible about the article?

Moore Capital is not in the business of making growth investments in companies. It is a macro fund. For the most part they deploy their capital to take advantage of what they see as dislocations in prices between assets. He doesn't really care if there is growth. In some cases he might even prefer there not be.

The reason why the article is terrible is because it places Bacon's letter completely out of context and then tries to use it as some jumping off point for a bigger discussion.
posted by JPD at 1:50 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fair enough, for me the discussion about the EU was the interesting part of this article I should have made it more prominent
posted by the mad poster! at 1:52 PM on August 9, 2012


If money were made transparent, could that help to detoxify this mess? If you involve money, then you forfeit a little privacy, because the transaction is open to view. Financial decisions become exposed to the vicissitudes of rational argument. Also, profit.
posted by stonepharisee at 1:54 PM on August 9, 2012


Moore capital management, moore problems.
posted by hoople at 1:55 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the UK, since about the mid-80s, the general populace has been encouraged to invest in the stock market (prior to that, say in the 60s, it was just for people who really knew what they were doing). So in the mid-80s you get the FTSE being quoted in the daily news, and its the start of policies like encouraging everyone to get a pension fund thats based in the stock market, etc.

If you look at whats happened to the FTSE in the last twenty years, its gone precisely nowhere. Especially if you adjust for inflation.

I suspect these two things are related. General populace investing in the stock market, and the stock market going nowhere. All the money men went off and invented more obscure markets (derivatives) and played casino there instead.
posted by memebake at 1:59 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mr. Louis M. Bacon says he returned that money to the investors, but I'm still waiting on my check.

Seriously though, send that money to me. If Moore Capital Management can't make money with it I'll give it a go.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:59 PM on August 9, 2012


And by "give it a go" I mean I'll abscond with a portion, attempt to manipulate markets, shrug and say, "Fuck if I know where it went."
posted by cjorgensen at 2:01 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the article does basically interpret Bacon's statements as exactly wrong: he's complaining that European governments are not doing enough to intervene, due to political interference by Germany. Bacon is well aware that political decisions are both hard to predict and that enormous profits can be reaped by those who succeed - as the New York Times notes, his reputation was made by succcessfully predicting the events and consequences of the Gulf War, resulting in a 115% profit over two years (wow). I'd argue that his conception of "natural market outcomes" includes state actors such as Hussein and Merkel; the problem is when these state actors are coopted by capital, resulting in market distortions favouring particular actors on the basis of identity (Hi there Goldman Sachs).

He's frustrated that German politicians are "interfering" in market outcomes because they're basically captive to the banks, which are enormously exposed to periphery sovereign debt. TL;DR: Technocracy good, kleptocracy bad. And Germany is basically acting as a kleptocracy, using its clout to make bad debt good again and not caring if they have to destroy half of Europe to do so. This is a strategy which is understandably shocking to many economists, who expected a more rapid response to the Greek and following GIPSI crises. Simplifying this to "political involvement is bad" is a gross misinterpretation, as Bacon is clearly in favour of ECB-style central planning, and wants more of it.
posted by mek at 2:16 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is what I've been telling people for years.
A 100% robot economy
robots buying
robots trading
robots selling
humans watching



One hundred quatloos on the newcomers!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:31 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Louis M. Bacon is . . . [saying] it is impossible to make money when there is heavy political involvement, because political involvement introduces unpredictability in the market…"

ORLY?! Maybe he should consider not donating $593,700 -- so far -- this year to politicians, then.

Poor Mr. Bacon... Merkel isn't giving him the "free market" fire sale that he so desires, where those with vast wealth and the right connections are able to loot entire continents. His financial bets in the EU backfired on him because he was too greedy, so he's taking a considerable amount of his marbles and going home, in the hope that, by pulling that much money out of the system, he'll cause real damage overseas and get a big payoff with the rest of his money.

Bacon is all about the politics of greed. Pork, if you will. He's had his gaping maw in the trough for so long, that he feels entitled to have the world's leaders serve up his swill first and finest, even while others are clearly suffering.
posted by markkraft at 2:32 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh my God! Are they doing it? Are they finally going Galt? Please, God, tell me all the bastards are finally doing it!

Please secret masters, please go Galt! We've been waiting for you to leave us to starve without you for so long now.
posted by Naberius at 2:35 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Maybe he should consider not donating $593,700 -- so far -- this year to politicians, then.

Good lord, he gave 500k to Restore Our Future? Okay then, lynch away.
posted by mek at 2:54 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


My very basic (and no doubt oversimplified) understanding of the European financial crisis is that any timely solution boils down to short term pain for Germany, which they will not accept.

The basic problem is that wages and prices in the greater Eurozone are much higher than in Germany. So an adjustment has to be made before the markets can function "normally" again. There are two possible solutions:

1. Inflation in Germany until its wages and prices match those of the periphery. But this isn't going to happen, and the German people would run Merkel out of office on a rail if it did. Probably tar and feather her, too.

2. Deflation in the Eurozone. This can happen two ways:

a) Currency deflation caused by the other nations printing more money. Currently impossible because they all use the Euro. And Germany wouldn't want this, because it would make their exports less attractive compared to their neighbours.

b) Deflation enforced by government fiat. By cutting their own spending, the effected countries sandbag their domestic economies and force wages and prices to go down due to reduced demand. This is the "everybody suffers but Germany and maybe France" model, and it's what they've been doing all along. But progress has been slow and painful. The markets don't seem to care for it, either.

It doesn't look like there are any "natural market forces" that can correct this situation, because of the way the Eurozone has been set up. So political involvement is the only way out.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:29 PM on August 9, 2012


More on Louis M. Bacon:
- His company paid out $25M to settle a UK insider trading probe. Apparently, he was trying to illegally manipulate the platinum and palladium markets.

- He gave £250,000 to the Conservative Party in Britain, despite the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron said that individual donations to the party should be capped at £50,000.

- He has a huge estate in The Bahamas, which seems to have a knack for producing dead people... albeit in a very hushed-up kind of way.

- Arguably, the reason he is returning money to investors can be found in this article, which predicted the move:
The 55-year-old founder of the $15 billion Moore Capital Management . . . just weathered his second down year in the past four after a particularly ragged run in the markets. . .
Amid the tumult, the Dodd-Frank legislation now requires Moore and other large hedge funds to register with the (SEC) and provide details about their risk management, trading, and disciplinary records. Bacon is loath to reveal any of it.

That has prompted him to reconsider the way he has done business for more than 20 years, according to associates. Some, in fact, believe that in the coming years Bacon may transform Moore into what’s known as a “family office,” a far smaller operation primarily managing Bacon’s own capital as opposed to that of outside investors. “Louis has been talking about becoming a family office for at least two years,” says one investor, adding that Bacon considers the new disclosures required by the Dodd-Frank Act to be “a problem.”


Basically, he doesn't want to allow the SEC to verify that he is making his money in an honest manner, so it appears that he might be changing his business to evade those requirements.
posted by markkraft at 4:20 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and you can bet that if Mr. Bacon gives advice to his Republican friends on both sides of the pond, it is this... "Get rid of any regulation that affects my business. Don't intervene in the marketplace. Let things fail."

(He'll be there to pick up the pieces!)
posted by markkraft at 4:40 PM on August 9, 2012


The big reason for shrinking a fund is the law of large numbers.

A small fund can pick up, say, half a dozen good opportunities to make money. If they're both smart and lucky they'll get unusually good returns from them. A different fund might not be so lucky, or smart, and it will get below-average returns. This is the real reason why managers often have several funds in the same market: they will boast about the unusually successful ones and shut down the ones that don't have a history of beating the market.

As the size of the fund grows the managers need to find more and more investments. Eventually they're just investing in the market as a whole and they're just earning average returns. Their customers are almost certain to lose money relative to the market as a whole because the fund charges management fees and commissions and so forth. At this point nobody is happy and the fund might as well close down. Alternatively, the manager can return money to the clients until the fund can once again engage in risky investing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:20 PM on August 9, 2012


I assure you all - the only thing that matters in figuring out what's going on in this letter is his performance. Were it still good I guarantee you he would not be complaining about Obama or Merkel or the "onerous SEC regs."

This is a classic "My performace is mediocre because the rest of the world is crazy" hedge fund letter. Its a cliche.
posted by JPD at 6:35 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The lack of investment opportunities has a lot to do with investors systematically gutting the societies they invest in. It's like a farmer eating his entire crop including the seeds and then next year saying that farming just ain't worth it because he has nothing to plant and everybody who could buy the produce is dead because they starved the previous year.
posted by srboisvert at 6:48 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Frankly, I hope the Euro fails;
I think about 333 million people might collectively tell you to get stuffed. But as they are just people I suppose they don't count very much as seen from your Ivory tower observation post.
This is just another US centric / UK centric viewpoint to crush what could and should become a viable regional currency with all the volume advantages and conveniences that brings.
The Euro exists, what is needed is the Political will to make it work.
Greedy Fuck Hedge fund Billionaire doesn't have enough money, wants less restriction to rape and pillage - business as usual..
posted by adamvasco at 1:11 AM on August 10, 2012


"Economics" translates in greek to "administration of the home". Ricardo and Smith talked of "political economy" because they weren't writing about the work of house[wives|husbands] -- rather, it was an extension of the notion of "economy" to the polis, the public space and interest. Gradually "economy" came to mean by default the political economy and "economics" its systematic study.

(And knowing is half the battle!)
posted by syntaxfree at 4:15 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


That said, Prophet Milton Friedman Who Has Never Been Wrong In His Predictions, Blessed Be His Soul in the Highest Echelons of Paradise predicted the euro wouldn't last long.
posted by syntaxfree at 4:18 AM on August 10, 2012


A lot of economists predicted the same; Krugman agreed with Friedman on the fate of the Euro, no small miracle.
posted by mek at 11:42 AM on August 10, 2012


EconomicsUK: Lessons from Sweden in Assembling a Recovery
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:45 AM on August 12, 2012


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