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Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Black Swan?

Nassim Taleb popularized the idea of Black Swan events in his best selling books, "Fooled By Randomness" and "The Black Swan". These events are unpredictable and have significant effects on financial markets. Market participants are adept at constructing narratives in hind sight that make the events seem obvious. The 2008 housing crisis which produced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s along with a market crash is an excellent recent example.

The key is that the event be totally unexpected. It can be either good or bad.

One candidate I believe that is out there at present is that the actions followed by Central Banks and the U.S. Federal Reserve will actually produce a well functioning global and U.S. economy. This is based on my watching the markets, reading about the markets and talking to investors. I have to say that I don't know of anyone who thinks that there aren't some serious bumps and bruises if not much worse in the near to intermediate future coming from following a zero interest rate  and negative interest rate policy. I have to add that I believe this is so even for the Fed governors in their heart of hearts. Uncharted waters are scary

But, what if the economy ratchets up its growth rate to 3%, the unemployment rate drifts a bit lower in the U.S., tax collections reduce the deficit and the Federal Reserve has the Fed Funds rate at a more  normal 3% rate say in 4 years? Wouldn't this qualify as a "Black Swan"?

And surely all those now predicting a sharp downturn immediately ahead would have no problem creating a narrative explaining how we got on the road to nirvana.

To be absolutely clear I don't expect this to happen. This is merely an academic exercise to keep us on our toes. To be sure, I'm in the camp of those who believe that manipulating the price of money or practically the price of anything is bad policy and distorts the system (i.e. creates bubbles) and eventually ends badly.

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