Insight - Making Sense of the Narrative

The multi-polar world emerging is producing a new 'Dollar Zone' of NATO plus Japan and S Korea. Investors need to start thinking what this will mean for capital flows.

SVB was a shock as everyone assumed everyone else had done the due diligence, but in reality it is a simple story of a bank that became a bond fund and failed to manage its duration and funding risks only to be hit with the equivalent of a redemption as its almost entirely corporate deposit base asked for their money back. By contrast Credit Suisse is hardly a surprise, but coming at the same time, and also in options expiry week, helped to create an exaggerated sense of a banking crisis. There isn't one. Both banks are the collateral damage of the shift to a new New Normal, where interest rates are set at 'normal' levels and normal companies can make normal profits (while great companies can make great profits). Investors should use the sell off from expensive end of fair value to cheap as an opportunity to renew or place their bets on the likely winners under this new paradigm.

SVB is a poster child for the old New Normal. It relied on deposits from the beneficiaries of the Silicon Valley deal machine that it then recyled into largely governmnet bonds on a carry trade that it convinced itself was risk free. However, even as the deal machine ground to a halt due to a lack of liquidity, it ignored its own duration and a liquidity mismatch (on-demand deposits, mostly with no Federal Insurance, invested in longer duration bonds) and when forced to acknowledge the mark to market losses as bond prices collapsed, it also found that an inverted yield curve has taken away its ability to run a carry trade. This is the new New Normal, where normal companies can make normal profits from normal interest rates. As investors start to look through accounting tricks like hold to maturity valuations and non GAAP earnings, Central Banks should also pause in their new found inflation fighting zeal and recognise the impact of inverting not only the yield curve, but the business models of the old New Normal too rapidly.

This is a video I recorded with Neil Shah at Vantage around three weeks ago when I was passing through London. Similar to the CISI subject but with more detail on the work we are doing with Toscafund.

Short covering drove markets in January, then February saw some rebalancing flows before increased Geo-Political tension led to some tail risk hedging ahead of the March options expiry. Traders are thus waiting for direction, while asset allocators are looking at relative value trades and not buying into the macro pundits belief that everyone else is wrong. Longer term investors meanwhile may have stopped selling rallies, but they haven't really started buying dips. Finally, as long term investors start thinking about de-dollarisation in 'The Rest' of the world, we should consider moves to 're-dollarise' the West.

China's economic growth was despite, rather than because of, the Washington Consensus model for economic growth. Now, as the anti China rhetoric in the west heats up, China is openly rejecting this latest Washington Consensus, a narrative it sees as based around US Hegemony. In a series of blunt and forthright publications, China seeks not to change the opinion of the 1bn plus that live in the bloc broadly defined as NATO plus Korea and Japan (even if their views were ever published in the mainstream media), but rather the opinions of 'the rest' - the 6bn or so who live outside of the west. As investors, we should always try and examine as and when the consensus might be wrong and certainly with China, it pays to listen to what they say they will do, rather than western opinion of what the ought to do.

First post on the new website would be one involving what is largely for us a new media, a video interview.

A year ago this week the Russians officially recognised the breakaway republics of the Donbas and triggered a ‘Special Military Operation’ (SMO) that in turn triggered a spike in risk premia that shocked markets.

Back in November, we were excited to meet up with friends and colleagues from Toscafund in London, who were visiting Hong Kong as the restrictions were being finally lifted. We wrote this up as (Money in the banks), because we were particularly taken with the logic behind buying into the ideas in their flagship Toscafund long/short financials fund.

January started the year strong in markets as the mean reversion trades we suggested likely in our year ahead piece all seem to have happened, with markets in January producing pretty much the inverse of 2022...

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