Lunch with the FT: Ben Bernanke

Martin Wolf :

I ask him whether he is confident that the improvement in the resilience of the banks is adequate. “It’s a fool’s game to predict that everything is going to be fine, because either it is fine, in which case nobody remembers your prediction, or something happens, and then … ” They remember your prediction, I interject.

Bernanke continues: “My mentor, Dale Jorgenson [of Harvard], used to say — and Larry Summers used to say this, too — that, ‘If you never miss a plane, you’re spending too much time in airports.’ If you absolutely rule out any possibility of any kind of financial crisis, then probably you’re reducing risk too much, in terms of the growth and innovation in the economy.”

→ Financial Times

Black Monday Really Did Look Like 1929 Again

A short and informative recollection of what happened roughly three decades ago, from Barry Ritholtz :

Where were you on Monday, Oct. 19, 1987?

Today is the first time since 2009 that Oct. 19 has fallen on a Monday, and that has me thinking about that day. I recall exactly where I was — in graduate school, walking between classes, when I passed a television broadcasting the collapse.

New York Magazine had a great piece too on February 2008 :

It all started, of course, on Wall Street. On Black Monday, October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones index, for reasons still being debated, fell 508 points, almost a quarter of its total. (The current equivalent, for comparison’s sake, would be a 3,200-point loss on one day.) The drop turned out to be a “black swan event,” a weirdly poetic economist’s term meaning, basically, a fluke (though few people remember it, the Dow still eked out a positive finish for the year). Still, the hiccup seemed to foretell the instability to come. Over the next two years, with the economy perceived to be overheating, the Fed repeatedly jacked up interest rates, which made bonds and T-bills sexier than stocks, which triggered an epidemic of unscrupulous bond peddling, which further destabilized the market—leading to a slowdown. (If that all sounds disturbingly like the recent subprime-debt mess, well, that’s because it is. But more on that later.) And a slowdown on Wall Street, which provides over 20 percent of the city’s cash income, spells a slowdown for New York.

→ Bloomberg View

Trading The Equity Curve

Some trading systems have prolonged periods of winning or losing trades. Long winning streaks may be followed by a prolonged period of drawdown. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could minimize those long drawdown periods? Here is one tip that might help you do just that. Try applying a simple moving average to your trading system’s equity curve and use that as a signal on when to stop and restart trading your system. This technique just might radically change your trading system’s performance.

→ System Trader Success

Liquidity : Never There When You Need It

Markets are dominated by a few large investors, creating problems of concentration. Similar portfolios and strategies exacerbate risk and the problems of illiquidity if a large number of participants or very large holders wish to exit positions at the same times.

Investors are frequently market following trading the momentum, buying when prices go up and selling when they fall. They are users rather than providers of liquidity. Their buying creates the illusion of active trading when markets are rising but suck liquidity out when prices fall.

→ EconoMonitor

Wall Street Banks Admit They Rigged CDS Prices Too

Tyler Durden :

Here is a system that ultimately allows banks to control the pricing for the instruments they use to bet against securities that they themselves create. This is just part and parcel of a never-ending paper wealth creation machine which generates billions in fiat money profits without creating anything in the way of tangible value and before it’s all over, this financialization of the US economy will likely end up bringing the world to its knees unless someone, somewhere puts a stop to the madness.

Is there anything left to be manipulated ?

→ Zero Hedge

Black Box Trading : Why They All “Blow-Up”

While in Greenwich Ct. one afternoon I will never forget a conversation I had with a leading quantitative portfolio manager. He said to me that despite its obvious attributes “Black Box” trading was very tricky. The algorithms may work for a while [even a very long while] and then, inexplicably, they’ll just completely “BLOW-UP”. To him the most important component to quantitative trading was not the creation of a good model. To him, amazingly, that was a challenge but not especially difficult. The real challenge, for him, was to “sniff out” the degrading model prior to its inevitable “BLOW-UP”. And I quote his humble, resolute observation “because, you know, eventually they ALL blow-up“…as most did in August 2007.

→ Global Slant

Volatility As An Opportunity Class

Like navigating busy Southern California freeways, volatility option trading is path dependent: Whether one makes or loses money depends on the path taken from point A to point B – as well as what happens en route. As with the freeways, bypassing traffic and finding an optimal route can make a big difference. As a real world example, driving to downtown Los Angeles from Newport Beach can take anywhere from 45 minutes to four hours depending on the route and road conditions (such as, perhaps, unexpected construction). It’s a dynamic process, as volatility – or “traffic” – can create more volatility.