This Week in Outside the Box we Join Bill Gross of Pimco in his July 2007 Investment Outlook as he strives to address the implications of the Bear Stearns hedge fund debacle, the toxic waste that is Wall Streets' innovative derivative products and their respective valuation, rather, lack thereof.
If Dear reader you have not been party to the excess of the Wall Street you may have not heard of the two Bear Stearns hedge Funds focusing on the subprime market that were subsequently liquidated on account of their inability to meet margin calls, thus wiping out investors. Mr. Gross believes that while significant, we ought not to look to Wall Street to see the repercussions of our excess but to the heart lands of America and the real estate there financed via subprime loans to witness the true folly of our capitalist ways.
General reader, today's Outside the Box is one that you are going to want to put your thinking caps on for. My good friend Woody Brock has kindly allowed me to present you with one of the sections from his quarterly comments. In his chapter "Deconstructing Today's Ongoing Revolution in Finance," Woody has written a particularly interesting and somewhat controversial section titled "Why the Economy Needs Vastly More Derivates, Not Less."
An all too common myth is that the total value of derivates is in and of itself dangerous because they are a form of leverage...but that is not the case. Derivatives, per se, are not a form of leverage; rather they afford the opportunity and make it easier and less risky for others to use leverage across many different assets and instruments (i.e. - mortgages, insurance, etc...). It is the leverage which is then the issue, as paradoxically, the decreased risk (hedging) aspects of derivatives allows investors to feel more comfortable with increased leverage, which sends a variety of signals to market participants.
The problem lies not in the instruments but in how the risk is distributed. While many of the larger, institutional players have used the offshoots of derivates to better hedge themselves, much of the smaller investor community has unwisely used the medium in a speculative manner. If a small homeowner is in trouble because of leverage on their mortgage, there just isn't anyone left to bail them out. Just as in the greater fool theory, the party only continues while someone is more foolish and irrational than the last fool.
Again, this is one of the more insightful articles featured in an Outside the Box. I believe it to be very important as its implications tie into what we are now seeing in the subprime mortgage market. May you enjoy Woody's insights and analysis.
Here is a different view on derivates that can help you with a basic understanding of the problem in the market and a look at gold. This comes from the HCM Market Letter by Michael Lewitt of Harch Capital in Florida.
This is a private letter for his clients and Michael is one smart guy with a deep understanding of the markets, especially the credit markets, and how they work. HCM deals in this world on a daily basis, so they can offer a somewhat inside view of derivatives and that is why it was picked for this week's Outside the Box.