18 January 2017

The Death of The Financial Quant

In a couple of days, co-incident with some other ceremony of note, we will have the internment (or pyre, whichever you prefer) of the financial quant. RIP. For, with the ascendance of The Donald to the throne, the adage, "what matters is who you know, not what you know" will be all that does matter.

The country, from municipalities to DC, is now under the thumb of the lunatic right. Check history, and you'll see the results: depression, deflation, and deprivation for the majority. Here's a review; the Wiki, too. You'll see that macro-economic carnage follows the lunatic right around like a sick puppy. What both reviews miss is that when the Senate has been in Republican hands with a Democrat in the White House, they've used the cloture rule to impose de facto control, so control of Washington is even more stark than the numbers show. Will the Democrats grow a set of gonads, and do the same to protect their constituents (many of whom were stupid enough to vote against their own best interest)? One can hope. The root problem: the lunatic right has always been in thrall to Rand (even before she put mania to page), which means a determination to destroy governance, they seek anarchy which allows the rich to pummel the rest; while the left has always believed that governance was not only necessary but beneficial, at least for the majority. See, for example
Pruitt doesn't see it that way. In a March 2015 column he co-wrote with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for The Hill, Pruitt called the Clean Water Rule "the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen." Pruitt and Rand maintain that states should be responsible for protecting the environment within their respective borders, not the federal government. Never mind that air and water pollution do not honor political boundaries and state legislatures are all too often dominated by corporate interests.
Externalities matter, if governance is a true priority.

So, what to expect? Well, tax cuts for the rich, which will trickle down, of course. Don't they always? Killing the ACA will have, as the Brits say, knock-on effects. Over the last few decades, FIRE and healthcare have been the dominant growth sectors.
Health care and real estate dominate a list of the country's 15 most profitable privately-held businesses, according to a report released Wednesday by Sageworks, a financial information company.

So, kill the ACA (and give back the tax moneys to the rich which help support it), and you reward the money changers. What can we expect if more moolah is gifted on the 1% and .1%? Let's look at recent history. The DotBomb happened because there was excess idle moolah lying around, looking for some place to inhabit. Well, the InnterTubes was obviously an easy way to make money, so a lot of that idle money flooded in. Then it became clear that any old web site wouldn't be a money printing machine, and so Kaboom!!! But, all that idle money pile kept growing. It looked for good return, but less risk than that damned InnterTubes thing. What might that be? Well, of course!! Why didn't they think of it sooner?? Residential mortgages had always been safe, and paid more than Treasuries ever did. But, on their own, they're hard to trade, so the mortgage companies and banks figured out how to bundle them up into tradeable securities. Tada!!! But, another but, the ever growing pile of moolah meant a level of aggregate demand for these securities far in excess of what traditional banking practice could produce as input into the sausage factory of securitization. So, the mortgage companies invented liar loans, and thus a better supply of raw meat for the sausage machines.

We don't, so long as the Fed doesn't fall into the hands of the more rabid Goldman Sachs alums, have that avenue anymore. The outcome will be more of the same; ever more moolah from the 1% and .1% chasing Treasuries (and thus, long term interest rates down), low to non- inflation since the 99% have ever less money, and thus low growth because macro-economic growth only happens when the middle class has most of the current and growing money. It's all about aggregate demand. If you want growth you have to have growth in aggregate demand (Laffer be damned). And if you want that, most of the money has to be in the hands of folks who both want and need to spend it. The 1% and .1% sit on their idle money, and demand that the damn gummint raise interest rates to at least 10% so they can grow their idle pile ever higher. They don't spend it and they don't invest in productive capital. Well, if such capital kills off a bunch of jobs, then may be.

But what will move the economy, for better or worse, won't be in the data, but in the policy events which dub the winners and execute the losers. Now, one might argue that this has always been true, and financial quants still managed to find employment. To some extent that's true. It's also true that a good deal of their effort was devoted to circumventing the rules of engagement: liar loans, LIBOR fiddling, London Whale, security ratings, and the like. It's just that the next few years, until The Donald is tossed out along with enough Republicans, will be utterly corrupt. One might be able to game that, of course, but that's not traditional quant.

So, as has been asserted here more than once, events drive the data. Data doesn't drive events, mostly. Detecting money flow changes, before the herd, can make you a lot of moolah. But the retail plunger doesn't have access to the data and compute cycles needed to benefit.

And, for the cherry on top, here's the maps of fat people in the USofA. You'll not be surprised that stupid and fat and Red all go together.
Here are the 10 states with the highest obesity rates.

1. Louisiana: 36.2%
2. Alabama: 35.6%
2. Mississippi: 35.6%
2. West Virginia: 35.6%
5. Kentucky: 34.6%
6. Arkansas: 34.5%
7. Kansas: 34.2%
8. Oklahoma: 33.9%
9. Tennessee: 33.8%
10. Missouri: 32.4%
10. Texas: 32.4%

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