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Freudian Vulture Fallacy

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
- Sigmund Freud
*****
CAN YOU SEE A VULTURE?

"The Virgin and Child with St. Anne" by Leonardo da Vinci (1503)

In a 1910 essay, Freud made a valiant attempt at divining an aspect of the painter Leonardo da Vinci’s personality through the above painting. Freud peered at the picture after tilting his head to the left, and noticed a vulture. Off went Freud on his psychoanalytic jet and concluded that the picture hid an insight into the painter’s life. 
It seemed to speak volumes about da Vinci’s ‘homosexual’ childhood fantasy. Freud relied on a translation of da Vinci’s writings, apart from the painting, for his interpretation.
Only the unforgiving arrow of time would pass true judgment on Freud’s mental frolics. The great man had mistranslated the word for ‘vulture’. The edifice on which Freud’s theory of da Vinci’s sexual fantasies rested was an illusion. Freud apparently considered the essay to be the only beautiful thing that he ever wrote. Some…
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The Strange Life of Abraham de Moivre

This edition is about a topic that fascinates me: bidding behaviour.
On how people make decisions under conditions of uncertainty. And the notion of ‘rationality’. *****  Many of you participated in a game I played with you recently. (I’m sure you are glad that I didn’t ask you to predict your expiry dates!)
An investment prospect offers 100% return potential over your benchmark return (your ‘required return’). How much of this excess return would you be willing to pay/share upfront to participate in the idea?
There were no right answers for this ‘buy in’. Only interesting answers.
Chart time.

Buyin for ‘50%’ represents 50% and above. Participants comprised of finance and non-finance backgrounds. The left bins generally had finance people; who opted for some variant of upfront fee and profit share structures. Many non-finance guys populated the higher bins. Interestingly, several finance folks populated the 50% and above bin. And I had some friends who were steadfast in populating the left mo…

Halls of the Blind

I can see what you see not Vision milky, then eyes rot. When you turn, they will be gone, Whispering their hidden song. Then you see what cannot be Shadows move where light should be. Out of darkness, out of mind, Cast down into the Halls of the Blind. 

- Diablo


I usually avoid referring to stuff from the 90s as the opening act. It risks giving away my vintage…
But the above words from one of the most successful role-playing games from the 90s – Diablo – (who remembers it?) is apt for this edition.
Auditor Problems.
It’s an opportune moment to dive into the Corporate Halls of the Blind.
*****
Indian markets have been beset by a sudden wave of auditor resignations from listed companies in recent times. Stock prices of the affected companies have taken a beating. Runaway auditors have caused market participants to speculate over the next defection, as alpha monkeys smell quick gains. Auditor issues have surfaced after a period of widespread price correction. Wounded consciences that were assuaged by …

"Our scars have the power to remind us that the past was real."

Bonhomie.
So much of it wafts through the market air currently. Hannibal Lecter’s quote from Red Dragon in the subject line wells up in one’s head. (Though some would counsel against letting Dr. Lecter crawl into one’s brains.)

The past decade has seen a major change in the way market participants think about positioning. Like a responsible parent helping toddlers to get on their feet, central banks globally have held the market’s hands through periods of disquiet. We have learnt to walk, indeed. Conditioning has nudged us to presume the parent’s omnipresence during future periods of turmoil. Assorted naysayers, bear mongers have been shaken out. Converts and survivors from The Resistance have taken to trend following, along the path of least resistance. Up. Momentum plays on liquidity – the ETF brigade – have added to the crowd. The zigging and zagging of prices – Volatility – has progressively entered hibernation, as a result.

QUIETER...and QUIETER


Volatility tends to bear an inverse re…

Napoleon’s Lucky Generals: "I know he's a good general, but is he lucky?"

With most market participants making money this year, the timeless quote by Napoleon in the subject line rears its head, once again. Regular non-readers know the wonderment I have on the impact of luck on investment outcomes.
The markets have been on a tear (sure you didn’t notice), and my mailbox/chat is seeing two polarized stances. On one side is the Bullish Apology. Where market participants pre-emptively share justifications for continued strong markets everywhere. This group exhibits hyper optimism, using recent history as the periscope through which to peer at and gauge the future. 
The second, and potentially, the more interesting group, is the Bubble Babble crowd. This group looks askance at the rallies, and deems things a bubble. This year has given this group a great polarizer. Bitcoin. A tiny bit know much about it. Most know a bit about it; yet there is a growing supply of those sharing their two coins, calling Bitcoin a bubble.
Both groups share certain characteristics. The…

Where Are The Fundamentals?

The following charts are useful in appreciating the previous bull market in India.

Improving interest coverage ratios and uptick in growth in the first half of the previous decade created a favourable environment for assuming a long equities posture. The acceleration in equities post 2005 coincided with a down tick in debt service capacity. This is in tune with behavioural characteristic of investor attention reacting belatedly to fundamentals. Cut to the present, coverage ratio is at 12-year lows and yet the equity index is at levels similar to 2007, when coverage ratios and economic growth were vastly better. 

Improving balance sheet health also reflected in a down tick in interest expenses relative to revenue until 2006. Post 2006, this metric has evolved on a deteriorating trend, and bank gross NPAs have grown at an accelerated pace. Both are at 12-year highs. The broad economic slowdown is partly to blame; however, blame ought to be apportioned to bull markets as well, as falling d…

'Can We Have Some (More) Obama Please?'

The US election is history. The dust has settled and life reverts to the dreariness of the usual. It is an appropriate time to pause awhile and look at some intriguing outcomes of the election.
Voting is perceived as an activity centred around individual voter self-interest. Well-balanced, informed voter base is an assumption that is considered unworthy of a re-examination. While the self-interest angle is quite palpable, the gamut of reasons put forth by voters on picking a certain candidate are often mired in vagueness. 
The following is an edited excerpt of an recent email exchange with a friend. HaLin wasn't eligible for voting, but under the garb of a market participant, had much practical interest in the outcome. This post is a summary of events as they happened.
Does individual rational behaviour lead to collective rational outcome?It is time to dive in to the world of individual definitions, nomenclature and qualitative perceptions.
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