1929 Wisdom

From John Hussman:

Galbraith reminds us that the 1929 market crash did not have observable catalysts. Rather, his description is very much in line with the view that the market crashed first, and the underlying economic strains emerged later: “the crash did not come – as some have suggested – because the market suddenly became aware that a serious depression was in the offing. A depression, serious or otherwise, could not be foreseen when the market fell. There is still the possibility that the downturn in the indexes frightened the speculators, led them to unload their stocks, and so punctured a bubble that had in any case to be punctured one day. This is more plausible. “Some people who were watching the indexes may have been persuaded by this intelligence to sell, and others may have been encouraged to follow. This is not very important, for it is in the nature of a speculative boom that almost anything can collapse it. Any serious shock to confidence can cause sales by those speculators who have always hoped to get out before the final collapse, but after all possible gains from rising prices have been reaped. Their pessimism will infect those simpler souls who had thought the market might go up forever but who now will change their minds and sell. Soon there will be margin calls, and still others will be forced to sell. So the bubble breaks.”


10 Laws of Stock Market Bubbles

  1. Debt is cheap.
  2. Debt is plentiful.
  3. There is the egregious use of debt.
  4. A new marginal (and sizeable) buyer of an asset class appears.
  5. After a sustained advance in an asset class’s price, the prior four factors lead to new-era thinking that cycles have been eradicated/eliminated and that a long boom in value lies ahead.
  6. The distance of valuations from earnings is directly proportional to the degree of bubbliness.
  7. The newer the valuation methodology in vogue the greater the degree of bubbliness.
  8. Bad valuation methodologies drive out good valuation methodologies.
  9. When everyone thinks central bankers, money managers, corporate managers, politicians or any other group are the smartest guys in the room, you are in a bubble.
  10. Rapid growth of a new financial product that is not understood. (e.g., derivatives, what Warren Buffett termed “financial weapons of mass destruction”).

Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles-by José A. Scheinkman (Book Review )

SPECULATION-TRADING-BUBBLESTo pay tribute to one of its most famous graduates, Kenneth J. Arrow, Columbia University launched an annual lecture series dealing with topics to which Arrow made significant contributions—and there were many. Speculation, Trading, and Bubbles stems from the third lecture in the series given by José A. Scheinkman, with adapted transcripts of commentary by Patrick Bolton, Sanford J. Grossman, and Arrow himself. I’m going to confine myself here to a few excerpts that encapsulate some of the lecture’s key points, ignoring the often perceptive commentary.
Scheinkman offers a formal model of the economic foundations of stock market bubbles in an appendix to his lecture, but he lays out its basic ideas in the lecture proper. The model rests on two fundamental assumptions—“fluctuating heterogeneous beliefs among investors and the existence of an asymmetry between the cost of acquiring an asset and the cost of shorting that same asset. … Heterogeneous beliefs make possible the coexistence of optimists and pessimists in a market. The cost asymmetry between going long and going short on an asset implies that optimists’ views are expressed more fully than pessimists’ views in the market, and thus even when opinions are on average unbiased, prices are biased upwards. Finally, fluctuating beliefs give even the most optimistic the hope that, in the future, an even more optimistic buyer may appear. Thus a buyer would be willing to pay more than the discounted value she attributes to an asset’s future payoffs, because the ownership of the asset gives her the option to resell the asset to a future optimist.” (pp. 15-16)



1.) It’s not valuation that matters.  It’s risk and reward in the growth cycle of each company.   – Leigh Drogen “The Coming Tech Crash”
2.)  Most importantly for the upside of the market, no one owns stocks.
There are millions of traders flipping stock with institutions in high growth names, but there are no rational conversations about the growth opportunities.
3.)  The media latches on to Steve Jobs not distributing the cash and thank god he laughs in their faces. Why should he trust the public with that cash. The public has proven to be imbeciles.
4.) Err on side of caution, hit the gas when deemed apropos, and don’t paradiddle. – A comment to Chessnwine’s post , “You call yourself a trader, you sonofabitch”
5.) Nietzsche was right- what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  – Pension Pulse, “Put Yourself First
6.) “You’ve got to have the passion to do your time. If you haven’t done the time, you just can’t get there.” He goes on to argue that only by paying one’s dues through time, effort, devotion, and experience can we, “develop the rich experiences that make life meaningful.” – Top 10 Things That Determine Happiness
7.)Economists who adhere to rational-expectations models of the world will never admit it, but a lot of what happens in markets is driven by pure stupidity  or, rather, inattention, misinformation about fundamentals, and an exaggerated focus on currently circulating stories. – Robert Schiller, via Stone Street Advisors ” Driven by Stupidity
8.) No company gets to be worth twice as much in 60 days as it was before to any intelligent person, so when that happens, we take advantage of it. – Steve Wynn , via Stone Street Advisors “ Driven by Stupidity
9.) Keep in mind that you dont have to be sending orders to be working.  Avoid nurturing the belief that nonparticipation is not working.  This leads to overtrading or compulsion which is the practice of poor risk management.
10.) A series of loses first eats into your account balance, and then begins to eat into what is most important of all: your confidence.  Trade with confidence or don’t trade at all.  If you cant take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

Speculation In This Sector Will End "Very Badly," Canada's Warren Buffett Says

Whether it’s subprime auto lending, Janet Yellen’s “stretched” biotech sector, or corporate credit, bubbles abound in today’s fragile market and like Mark CubanPrem Watsa thinks the valuations investors are placing on private tech companies are simply ludicrous. But the insanity isn’t confined to private companies, Canada’s Warren Buffett says. “Speculation” is rampant in publicly traded shares as well. 

From Fairfax Financial’s shareholder letter:  

I am always amazed at the speculation that can take place in the stock market, as shown in the table below, and how long it can last:


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