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Tuesday September 20, 2005 - 11:30:52 GMT
Black Swan Capital -

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Key News
•A gauge of [German] institutional and analyst expectations fell to 38.6 from 50 in August, the ZEW Center for European Economic Research said today in Mannheim.
•Key reports due today (WSJ):
7:45a.m. ICSC-UBS Store Sales Index For Sept. 17 Wk. Previous: -0.2%.
8:30a.m. August Housing Starts. Consensus: -0.8%. Previous: -0.1%.
8:55a.m. Redbook Retail Sales Index For Sept. 17 Wk. Previous: +0.5%.
9a.m. Federal Open Market Committee meeting begins;
interest rate announcement expected around 2:15 p.m. EDT. Previous: +25 Bps.
5p.m. ABC/Money Consumer Confidence For Sept. 18 Wk. Previous -20.

“I came to a strange conclusion. The cycle got stuck in 1982…We now live in a system where we continue to go to the brink and then recoil when we see the abyss opening up at our feet. The cohesion we mange to muster in the sight of a disaster tends to disintegrate as soon as the danger recedes, and the process then repeats itself in different forms. We can observe it in the international monetary system; in OPEC; in the banking system; in financial markets; and 1987 will undoubtedly be the year when protectionism drives the international trade system to the brink of collapse but probably not beyond it.”

George Soros, Alchemy of Finance (December 1986)

FX Trading
Has much on the macro scene really changed? The linchpin holding it up is the same—credit. Or shall we say the extension of credit based on subject underlying asset valuation that defines “collateral.”

“The longer the world endures mounting imbalances without suffering any serious consequences, the more the financial-market consensus believes this disequilibrium is sustainable,” writes Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley.

Yes, this belief in sustainability is what keeps the boom alive. The act of lending, boiled down, is an act of faith. Maybe not faith in the borrower per se in the new world order, but at least faith the music will continue and the underlying collateral will sustain.

We talked yesterday about the gold price, and maybe much of its recent surge might be attributed to risk as well as the budding consensus on inflation. At the edges, wear order continues to fray, gold is viewed more precisely as a store of value than and alternative asset play (with the exceptions of the gold bugs that have waited decades for today’s reality).

“In the West we see gold as another market play - from technical players like you to the mass of animal spirits players. But that is not the case in countries like Saudi, Iran etc where savings in gold are par for the course, megabucks are flowing in and there is plenty of real world insecurity. Not to mention India as gold consumer number one and China with demand set to soar and other emerging markets with high growth,” writes Mr. John Katz, an economic researcher (he is not a “bury the cans in the backyard” gold bug). Mr. Katz has written a book on gold; it’s soon to be published.

“My top candidates for event risk include the following: an outbreak of US protectionism, the bursting of the US housing bubble, a US inflation problem, the end of fiscal discipline, or a financial accident in the US,” writes Mr. Roach.

That list isn’t all that different from Mr. Soros’ list penned in December of 1986 (in Quotable above).

Will we muddle through? Or will the Fed by “doing the right thing” in raising interest rates trigger the decline in collateral values that makes credit extension look vulnerable instead of sustainable?

We know what happened shortly after Mr. Soros’ penned his concerns (October ’87)—will Mr. Roach’s view be as prescient?

Jack Crooks
Black Swan Capital


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