Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Masters of the Universe vs. the Lord's Elect

A bright gleam has caught the helmets of our bankers. Goldman Sachs is set to pay an average £500,000 bonus to its London traders. This modest lagniappe is the equivalent of merely 20 years' median annual remuneration for NHS nurses. It is heartening to see that amid the gloom of an economy wrecked by... well, anyway, I'm sure we all agree that they deserve it. Indeed, more; but we must hope they may reasonably expect further such emoluments in the years to come. Nothing is too good for our money-boys, or for the politicians whom they will accommodate when put out to grass.

On an unrelated note, I've suddenly recalled the episode in Evelyn Waugh's "Decline and Fall" where Paul Pennyfeather meets a madman in prison:

"Well, one day I was just sweeping out the shop before shutting up when the angel of the Lord came in. I didn't know who it was at first. "Just in time," I said. "What can I do for you?" Then I noticed that all about him there was a red flame and a circle of flame over his head, same as I've been telling you. Then he told me how the Lord had numbered His elect and the day of tribulation was at hand. "Kill and spare not," he says."

Fortunately, the nutter's victim is a Modern Churchman, not a vitally important, wealth-creating banker.

Many market "shorts" are due to expire on Friday, I understand. Perhaps the market - a free and unmanipulated market, you may be sure - will change its mood next week.


The S&P 500 closed above 900 points yesterday. "Mish" has said that it could easily fall below 500 points, or stall for years. He is against "buy and hold." So who profits if the poor layman is persuaded to stay in the market?

Regardless of what strategy one uses, it is a horrible idea to hold stocks throughout recessions.

Why Is Bad Advice So Common?

Clearly, stay the course is bad advice. So why is it so common? A personal anecdote might help explain things: In January of this year, an investment advisor from Wachovia Securities called me up and stated "Mish, I am sitting on millions because I see nothing I like". I told the person I did not like much either and that Sitka Pacific was heavily in cash and or hedged. His response was "Well, I do not get paid anything if my clients are sitting in cash".

I called up a rep at Merrill Lynch and he said the same thing, that reps for Merrill Lynch do not get paid if their clients are sitting in cash.

Massive Conflict of Interest

Notice the massive conflict of interest possibilities. Reps for various broker dealers have a vested interest in keeping clients 100% invested 100% of the time, even if they know it is wrong. And so it is every recession, bad advice permeates the airwaves and internet "Stay The Course".


Anonymous said...

"it is a horrible idea to hold stocks throughout recessions."

Not sure about that.

I am holding some, which although currently very low in capital value, are still providing excellent dividend yields - far more than the same money held in savings accounts.

And in due course the capital value will no doubt recover.

It's only a bad idea to hold stocks if you need to sell them during the recession. I don't.

sobers said...

Some people are going to be very surprised come the autumn when the green shoots wither and die, and the reality of our debt mountain reappears. It won't be pretty.

James Higham said...

The Pennyfeather syndrome - yes.

Paddington said...

Time for the burning brands and pitchforks.