Asset management, Behavioral finance, Commodity price, Economics, Hedging, Market research, Market trends, Oil market, Risk management, Trading, Trend following

Failure of price forecasting: the unit of account conundrum

In addition to the better understood challenges of market analysis, like access to timely and accurate data, there is another – rather massive, but usually completely ignored – problem that renders forecasting largely an exercise in futility.

Over the years I’ve written quite a bit on the unreliable nature of price forecasts based on the analysis of market supply and demand . Most recently, in “Market fundamentals, forecasting and the groupthink effect,” I discussed the problem of data quality as well as the very real problem of groupthink among leading analysts, providing an example of a staggeringly wrong oil price forecast they produced. Some of the very same experts later produced this gem: Continue reading

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Attaining mastery, Children, Mystery, Psychology

To attain mastery… a surprising discovery

Many years ago, quite by accident, I noticed something amazing about the human brain. Although I’ve read many books on psychology and how the brain works, I never came across anything that prepared me for what I encountered. I believe this discovery can help anyone greatly improve their skills at whichever pursuit they wish to master. I’ve followed my accidental discovery with a ‘home-cooked’ science experiment that beautifully confirmed the original finding. This insight could help parents, teachers and coaches in the way they cultivate young talent. It should also be an encouragement to such talent: whatever your skill level at this moment, you ain’t seen nothing yet – mastery may be fully within your grasp, even if you can’t even fathom it at present. Here it goes… Continue reading

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Commodity price, Commodity risk, Complexity, Economics, Expertise, Hedging, Market psychology, Market research, Market trends, Oil market, Risk management, Trend following

Market fundamentals, forecasting and the groupthink effect

Last month I had the privilege of meeting with Jaran Rystad of Rystad Energy to discuss strategic cooperation between our companies. On the occasion, he gave me a rather detailed presentation of his firm’s energy intelligence database. I must say, in my 20+ years trading in commodities markets this is by far the most impressive product of its kind I’ve ever seen. Even from the software engineering point of view, I was very impressed. For full disclosure, nobody asked nor encouraged me to write this. Much as you’d recommend a restaurant where you ate well or a doctor you respect, I wholeheartedly recommend Rystad Energy as a provider of energy market intelligence as a matter of giving credit where credit is due.

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With Jarand Rystad of Rystad Energy in Monaco – their oil market intelligence is impressive by any standard.

However, even with top notch data on economic supply and demand fundamentals, divining the future remains difficult and unlikely. John von Neumann rightly said that forecasting was “the most complex, interactive, and highly nonlinear problem that had ever been conceived of.” Continue reading

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Central banking, History, Inflation, Monetary reform

On the other side of the financial repression dam: epic inflation

Inflation is with us – and in time it will flood the economy. Regardless of how powerful and prosperous a nation may appear in its peak, no empire ever was able to exempt itself from the elemental laws of economics any more than we can exempt ourselves of the laws of gravity.

Warren Buffett warned that for a debtor nation, inflation was the economic equivalent of the hydrogen bomb. Runaway inflations tend to emerge when an economy’s debt burden becomes unsustainable, usually as a consequence of too much government spending and too much war. Today, nearly all categories of debt in the U.S. economy are breaking records: government, corporate as well as household and student debt. Worse, the levels of delinquency have been rising and credit standards have been deteriorating over the recent months, particularly for corporate debt. Continue reading

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Asset management, Behavioral finance, Market psychology, Market research, Market trends, Trading, Trend following

Trend following might save your tail

In the age of central bank quantitative easing, trend following has become an unpopular investment strategy, even earning tiself a bad name as trend following funds performed miserably compared to bonds, equities, and passive index funds. Below is a chart put together by AutumnGold showing a growing gap between Managed Futures funds the S&P 500 and Barclay’s Aggregate Bond index. Managed futures funds are a good proxy for trend following performance as most of them apply systematic trend following strategies in one way or another.

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Asset management, Central banking, Economics, Inflation, Market research, Market trends, Policy

US jobs: everything is awesome! Is it? Let’s take another look.

A few years back in an interview with Wall Street Journal’s “Heard on the Street” program , Elliott Management’s Paul Singer said that his greatest worry was the rise of inflation that could appear suddenly. He suggested that this could come about with small changes in perception of inflation risk. Specifically, “The first whiffs of either commodity inflation or wage inflation,” said Singer, “may cause a self-reinforcing set of market events … which may include a sharp fall in bond prices, … fall in stock prices, rapid increase in commodities…

However, government statistics keep churning out almost too-good-to-be-true data. With today’s report, unemployment is down, but wage pressure is “muted.” But is it? Last month’s Average Hourly Earnings ticked down from a 3.4% annual growth rate to 3.2%. The small down-tick prompted the collective market komentariat to declare that wage pressures are abating. But are they really? A look over the longer-term trend gives quite the opposite impression: wage pressures are in an upward trend that appears to be accelerating. Here’s the official data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

201904_AverageHourlyEarningsTrendingUp

 

The main worry about this trend is percisely inflation – you know, the thing Warren Buffett likened to an economic equivalent of the hydrogen bomb for a debtor nation. Should we remain relaxed and complacent because at present there’s little inflation discernible in the official data?

Historical research published by Alliance Bernstein indicated that significant changes in inflation almost always come as a surprise: “elevated money and credit growth is a warning sign. Another warning sign occurs when the level of aggregate demand begins to bump up against supply constraints. And a third is a rise in wages. None of these factors alone causes inflation, but in combination they are extremely likely to signal inflationary risk.” Still, says complacency: “we don’t expect any surprises.” Live and see.

 

Alex Krainer [alex.krainer@altanawealth.com] is a hedge fund manager and commodities trader based in Monaco. He wrote the book “Mastering Uncertainty in Commodities Trading

Description: Trading and hedging commodity price risk

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Asset management, Behavioral finance, Hedging, Market psychology, Market research, Market trends, Risk management, Stock market, Trading, Trend following

Lessons Of Japan’s 1980s Bull Market

Afer popping, Japan’s 1980s bull market gave way to an 82% drop over the following 20 years.

Three decades later, Japanes equities are still more than 40% below peak valuations.

One of the most effective methods of navigating the boom/bust cycles has been the systematic trend following.

Sooner or later a crash is coming, and it may be terrific

Roger Babson, 5 Sep. 1929

If everybody indexed, the only word you could use is chaos, catastrophe. The markets would fail

Jack Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group

As of December 2018, passive index funds controlled 17.2% of the stock of all U.S. publicly traded companies, up from only 3.5% in 2000. The 5-fold increase was in part the consequence of the ongoing stock market growth, which now has the distinction of being the longest running bull market ever recorded. Buoyed in large part by central banks’ unprecedented quantitative easing (QE) programs, the rising stocks have lulled many investors into complacency.

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