In mid March, when the US became woefully aware to the stark realization of the impact of the COVID-19 virus, we saw the major US stock markets take significant tumbles. The market took some significant dips in the days around St. Patrick’s Day, however they have since rebounded relatively steadily since. And what is interesting is what could be driving this investing activity, against the advise and wisdom of many a seasoned Economist:
In a…presentation to the Economic Club of New York, on Tuesday [May 12], Stanley Druckenmiller, a former hedge-fund manager who now invests his own money, said, “The risk-reward for equity”—that is, stocks—“is maybe as bad as I’ve seen it in my career.” And yet many small investors…do not seem fazed by warnings like these.John Cassidy, The New Yorker
Over the past few years, many brokerage firms have substantially reduced, or outright eliminated, trading fees. While this has reduced the friction for any individual investor to enter the market and invest, the COVID-19 lockdown and the lack of sports may be having an unanticipated impact on market dynamics:
“It could be that it’s just a lot of people have a lot of time on their hands,” he said. “One friend suggested to me it is replacing gambling. The casinos are closed and there are no sports to bet on.”
For some active traders, this theory does seem to apply. “I like betting on sports,” Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports, told Business Insider. “Sports ended, and this was something that was still going that I could do during the day.” After the shutdowns began, Portnoy put three million dollars in an E-Trade account “to play around with.” He’s been busy sharing his exploits with his large Twitter following. (On Friday morning, he reported, “I’m up fifty grand.”)John Cassidy, The New Yorker
The scary thing about what is happening to the Economy as a result of the tepid response by the US Government to the crisis is that few people really, truly understand the crippling effect the shut down dynamics are having on the greater US economy. With so many people’s investments and retirements tied up in the stock market, when the true scope of the damage slowly exposes itself like a slow motion car crash, you have to wonder if the damage will be accelerated by stocks crashing further and impacting individuals who entered the market to satisfy a gambling itch they could not scratch.
A very interesting and insightful article about pinball machines and the economic drivers that led to their demise.
In 1980, pinball went digital, multi-ball, and multi-media starting with the game Black Knight. Black Knight brought pinball to a new level, literally speaking because it was among the first games with ramps and elevated flippers, but even more importantly because it brought a new challenge that drew in and solidified a pinball crowd. In doing so it also set the pinball market on a path that would eventually lead to its demise.
The article goes on to describe how the algorithms of the machines and the physical limitations of the machines themselves became the barrier to entry for new players, while at the same time video games were on the rise and they gave its users the ability to practice at the lower levels and get better as they advanced.
Every year I go to the Pinball Wizards Convention in Allentown, PA and marvel at the enthusiasm of the people playing the pinball machines, as well as the “chewing gum and paperclip” appearance of how the machines are wired and constructed. The irony is that the advanced (for the time) calculations and logic baked into these machines (not to mention the artwork and design that made up the visual and physical presentation of the machines themselves…there was one guy who said he spent over 500 hours drawing a design for a game!) may have done more damage than good.
Out in California, which has been pummeled by the meltdown in the housing market, skateboarders from far and wide are draining pools in foreclosed houses so they can rip a few half-pipes. The skaters are literally traveling in packs, with pool draining tools to empty the pools so they can have their skating parties:
In these boom times for skaters, Mr. Peacock travels with a gas-powered pump, five-gallon buckets, shovels and a push broom, risking trespassing charges in the pursuit of emptying forlorn pools and turning them into de facto skate parks…Skaters are coming to places like Fresno from as far as Germany and Australia. Mr. Peacock said his floor and couch were covered by sleeping bags of visiting skateboarders each weekend.
What’s most impressive is that the skaters are using sites like realtor.com and realquest.com to find foreclosed houses with pools.
If you are a little befuddled about what caused this economic mess we are currently in and will continue to be in for at least the next 18-24 months, take a few hours and listen to This American Life’s Giant Pool of Money and Another Frightening Show About the Economy. They are two amazingly clear and informative podcasts about what caused this mess and how the “geniuses” on Wall Street brought the modern economic system to its knees.
Interesting article by Jim Cramer in NY Magazine this week about the sorry state of the economy today and what could possibly happen a year from now:
What will New York look like a year from now? The answer: bad and probably worse, and perhaps downright catastrophic. Three degrees of awful. The first step was passing the bank-bailout legislation. Now that it’s done and if it didn’t get done we would have been looking at a guaranteed economic collapse, the critical issue will be presidential leadership. And while any president will be an improvement over the current one, there is a growing belief on Wall Street that Barack Obama has the capacity to lead us out of this wilderness while John McCain does not. I’ll go a step further: Obama is a recession. McCain is a depression.
No matter how we cut it, things are just screwed up.
I’m not one to get on my soapbox to blog politics or the like, but I heard something today that really made me sit back and think about the state of this great nation, and how far down the tubes its been sent in the past 8 years.
What got me was an interview on the APM/NPR show Marketplace about the price of oil/gas and what could be done to deflate the oil bubble. Now I’m not one to believe everything I hear and/or read, but in this interview, Michael Greenberger from the University of Maryland Law School, basically stated that we’re still paying for Enron and commodity speculators:
Kai Ryssdal: You’re not really telling me that seven years on, we’re still paying the price for Enron, are you?
Michael Greenberger: Well, this has been called the “Enron Loophole” and there are many legislators working very hard to close that loophole. There is tremendous concern about this on Capitol Hill and on a bipartisan basis, people are drafting legislation to try and get a handle on this and not eliminate speculation, but bring the speculation under the kind of time-tested controls that were used until Enron had its way and amended the law to escape traditional tested regulation on speculative activities.
Greenberger went on to say that he thought that we were in a “bubble” situation with the oil market because of these speculators driving up prices. And with every bubble, there is a POP. So the next question is inevitable:
Ryssdal: How long is it going to take then if we are, as you say, in a bubble, for it to work its way through and us to get back to something more realistic for the price of a barrel of oil, whether its 50 bucks or 80 bucks?
Greenberger: From my own experience as a commodity regulator, I believe that if the Bush Administration were serious about its regulation, we could begin seeing prices drop within a month. If we don’t get the kind of regulation that has been done for decades and the market proceeds along the pace its proceeding, we will have to go through a very, very serious recession. The question is do you want to deflate the bubble by that kind of suffering or do you want to deflate the bubble by applying tight U.S. regulatory controls?
A month…it would take a flippin’ month to bring this back to some level of relative sanity. Do I fully buy that estimate? Not really. But the point is that if the administration had a clue, they could do what is needed quickly to bring prices back to some level of normalcy in fairly short order and turn this around before things get in really serious, serious trouble. If anything, the silver lining is that the country is now being forced to think about alternate energy sources.
Is it November yet?
I step off my soapbox and will get back to more entertaining posts.
Analog gas pumps are crashing because of the obscenely high gas prices these days.