Tuesday, August 19, 2008

To the hilt

This blog started by looking at a particular development project's status with the intent to comment on a few modern predicaments that have been exacerbated by computational confusion. Well, in engineering, as said before, we have a real world that comes into play.

The same world influences the market, and things financial, but in an entirely different way that cannot seem to get its head out of gaming (apologies to the Olympic athletes, as gaming can have an honorable connotation or two).

In the 08/18/08 WSJ, Ethan Penner describes one aspect of the current problem in his op-ed ("How Low Interest Rates Contributed to the Credit Crisis"). Penner has one example that we can expand upon and comment about here. The following analysis will just be a small beginning.

Penner says that a key factor is that some retirement fund techniques will require a huge return in order to pay up as they promised (by the way, the use of entitlement applies here on several sides - who is more 'entitlement' laden in thought than some CEOs and some financial types?) . How many times have we heard 20% returns plus?

So, if the going rate for some real investment type is 6.5%, how does one get more? Well, the tranche method (Penner also has some thoughts on securitization's future) played that game, too. But, let's use a little story.

Supposing we had 100K bucks (later in the story, we'll multiply that by several 10s; as well, dampen any notion of rationality for a few sentences). Well, in the easy money and high liquidity times, we could have found someone who would have loaned us 900K bucks which would have given us a cool 1M bucks in total. Now, if we could get the money (900K bucks) at 5%, then we would make 1.5% for each of the nine 100Ks. The accumulation of return would give us the 20% on our original 100K bucks.

Get it? Smart or not?

Now, apply your multiple of 10s to the 100K bucks. Lots of people were making money this way; of course, what we saw, or read about, were the big winners. Then, we also heard about big losers.

Hah! Is this how an economy ought to work? Actually, a whole industry has been set up the past 20 years to foster this time of gaming which, by necessity, moves money from the pockets of the multitude of hapless to the golden (and more) purses of the favored few (those who have infinite entitlement - versus those who are only looking for some food and shelter).

By the way, this little example can be applied many ways to what goes on daily in the markets. We'll be getting back to that.

But, we'll also pose, and try to answer, some questions. Like, who would put $900K upon $100K (9 to 1 if you're counting)? In the old days, this type of number would have been a fraction (think the multiplier effect in macroeconomics). Why would I as a rational holder of $900K let you get the 1.5%?

If this type of leveraging was then extended (almost recursively), what value is there (of course, we see with unwinding that things do dissipate)? This brings up another side. If the one with the 100K bucks gets 900K bucks more and then has a -5% return, that would reduce the 100K bucks by half. But wait, the 5% would still be payable, so the 100K bucks would be even less.

Gosh, ought we to get the financial thing on some natural basis, not unlike using thermodynamics (no endorsement is intended, implicitly or otherwise) as some economists argue?

So, where is the accounting for all this? Some seem to think that the 'risk' ontology is sufficient; these need to look closely at quasi-empirical issues.


04/03/2011 -- Need to look at some background. Too, tranche and trash.

03/17/2011 -- Politicos might actually be compounding the issues.

08/24/2009 -- Last year, Ben blinked and panicked. He frantically pulled out all stops as if with no thought for tomorrow. Now, he has no use for 'mea culpa' big daddy that he is. Ben, start to unwind now. The Vienna School's view that these things are undecidable (which is a computational issue) is right on.

07/23/2009 -- After the bust and the rebound, toxic assets are still a problem due to tranche realities.

06/07/2009 -- Say what?

12/17/2008 -- We'll use made-off in lieu of ponzi, henceforth.

10/27/2008 -- Yes, things fell apart for several reasons: fiction, leverage, and more.

10/11/2008 -- It keeps getting more interesting.

08/24/2008 -- This example where we see a 9 to 1 increase off of $100K is equivalent to a reserve ration of 10% which can be considered a historically low figure for the reserve or a high multiplier. This notion is related to leveraging in the sense of creating something out of nothing from one view. Of course, as argued before, the lowering of the reserve ration goes hand in hand with increasing use of mathematics through growing computational prowess which can exacerbate the Minsky ponzi tendencies, as we've seen of late. If we're going to model the economy via computation, why not base it on some physical analog, like energy (no endorsement intended)?

Modified: 04/03/2011

No comments: