‘The combination of central banker-applied brute force (buying everything in sight) and deitylike central banker pronouncements has dampened market volatility and frisky free-lancing, but at the same time it has encouraged risk taking (in market positioning, not it business formation). We have thought, and still think, that confidence in central banks and policymakers has been unjustified and thus could erode or collapse at any time. Since the major financial institutions which comprise the financial system are still way overleveraged and opaque (in fact with record amounts of debt and derivatives at present), such a break in confidence could happen abruptly and without warning.’ – from Paul Singer’s Q2 investor letter (note: Paul Singer is the founder of Elliot Management, one of the most successful hedge fund management firms since its inception in 1977).
Singer is considered one of the most shrewd and accomplished investors in the modern era. The quote above embodies two of the concepts I’ve been discussing for quite some time in the weekly Short Seller’s Journals: Central Bank intervention will ultimately fail in spectacular fashion; the Too Big To Fail Banks (TBTFs) currently have more leverage and OTC derivatives – the latter well hidden off-balance-sheet – than just before the 2008 financial crisis/de facto collapse.
Singer has been quite vocal recently about the inevitability of an eventual market/systemic collapse. It’s not a question of ‘if,’ but of ‘when.’ I read an analysis last week from Graham Summers of Phoenix Capital in which he suggests that the Fed would lose control of the VIX – lose control of its ability to keep the VIX suppressed – and a large spike up in the VIX would trigger an avalanche of selling from the $10’s of billions in Risk Parity Funds. These funds buy stocks when the VIX falls and unload stocks when it rises – all based on algorithms which are automatically executed by ‘black box’ computerized trading systems.
This post was published at Investment Research Dynamics on August 8, 2017.