Thoughts on 2014 – Moral Hazard PLUS – Part 1

Reflections on 2014

As a behaviourally focused economics publication we have been very quiet and inactive during 2014. A year of reflection and introspection, however, we are ready to resume service, with vigour. And what better way to start than with a reflective piece and thoughts on the biggest risk we believe are developing under the surface without warning. Our concluding theme of 2014 is that of moral hazard.

As Margaret Thatcher once said: “There is no society”; we state today that there is ‘No Moral Hazard’; in fact there is only Moral Hazard PLUS.

We believe that there is a strong correlation between QE (Quantitative Easing) and economic moral hazard developing a new strain, mutating like an unseen virus.

QE might have saved the financial system of the developed world, but it it only provided a shot in the arm and acted as a stimulus for sustaining moral hazard.

Economics follow a flow and cyclical pattern, as discussed in our article entitled ‘Information Age Irony‘. These patterns and flows weave themselves into the fabric of our lives and affect individual economies in different ways.

It is important to understand where and how economic cycles develop and flow and how much influence they have on our general economic activities on a day to day basis, but we should not become overly obsessed by them, as they can be short-circuited from time to time by policy and policy-maker’s actions, wherever individually or collectively.

In part 2 of this article we will focus on the revelations of QE and the underlying threat of moral hazard returning on a grander and more catastrophic scale, if it goes unchecked and misunderstood.

© theMarketSoul 2014

The Kuznets swing and the market for labour and skills

You must have seen the headlines recently? British wages falling sharply in real terms versus our EU brethren…

We wrote about a particular economic phenomenon referred to in this post about economic cycles and particularly the Kuznets swing; which we find the most interesting and thought provoking cycle. The reason for this is that it is a generational cycle, only lasting or more accurately stated lasting anywhere between 15 – 25 years.

Image representing oDesk as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

So where are we on this cycle and what does it mean for me, should be the two most obvious questions to answer?

Lets address both separately below.

Firstly we believe we are now around seven years into a downward phase of the Kuznets cycle, therefore to some analysts it would mean that we are either almost half way or to others around a third of the way through this cycle.

Secondly, and more importantly, the impact it has on market participants like all of us:

We believe that the downward phase of a Kuznets swing is the ‘exuberance‘ correcting phase; when markets and other factors of productions contributing to mostly normal market clearing activity ‘got slightly out of kilter’. The Kuznets swing is always there to bring these factors of production into alignment. It is a consolidation phase of the cycle and interestingly for this particular phase, it coincides with disruptive technological advances around Cloud Computing, dis-aggregation of intermediaries, especially in labour markets with labour or skills exchanges appearing everywhere.  Examples include, Elance, oDesk, PeoplePerHour, etc..

English: Cloud Computing
English: Cloud Computing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Furthermore, and this is the most import action point for our readers to understand and appreciate, this consolidation and technological advance has a severe impact of wages levels and the distribution of where actual ‘work’ is being performed.

Hence headlines like the one we spotted this morning regarding real wages in Britain declining relative to other (very unproductive EU cousins) are not helpful without the pundit exploring and engaging n deeper analysis of the underlying drivers for the pressure.

The Income and Substitution effects of a wage ...
The Income and Substitution effects of a wage increase (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our recommendation:

Understand that the world of work is changing much faster than we had ever become used to in previous generations. As active able and willing participants in this market for labour and skills we have clear choices: Up-skill, be competitive appreciate and plan for volatility in the labour supply market, by ensuring flexibility in location, skills and prices. It is especially painful to suffer real wage declines, but remember this is the market’s subtle way of signalling a problem or challenge in that particular market and a way of adjusting in order to restore the natural balance and clearing prices.

We believe every interfering politician and educating commentator should always bear this in mind.

theMarketSoul ©2013

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Our Lessons from 2011

 

We decided to summarise our learning from 2011 into two brief thoughts:

 

The May 1, 2010 cover of the Economist newspap...
Image via Wikipedia
  1. The pains and strains of the economic sovereign debt melt-down in 2011, should stand us in good stead to deal with even more debt and sovereign strain in 2012, as More and Bigger Europe continue to miss the point; this being that more bureaucracy and more government and regulation will not get the INNOVATION engine started again to Recapitalise Europe!

    Graphic "When Greece falls" presente...
    Image via Wikipedia
  2. Translational differences will matter.  The CLOUD is a huge business and business model transformation opportunity.  IT ‘Geekery’ and language could scupper this potential opportunity and we need to develop more ‘CLOUD TRANSLATION’ services so that a broader community and eco-system can get involved in an aspect of “INNOVATION ignition” in 2012.
Clouds over Tahoe HDR #1
Image by Bill Strong via Flickr

All the best and good luck in 2012.

 

theMarketSoul ©2011

Synthesizers wanted…to cross the crises divide…

Crises
Image via Wikipedia

Today we are reposting a blog article originally posted in April 2010.

We believe the sentiments are still valid and should resonate across the various crises we are experiencing currently. Please click on the link below:

https://themarketsoul.com/2010/04/25/221/

theMarketSoul © 2011

Peak Debt – What Peak Debt?

Peak Debt is in essence the point at which a sovereign nation reaches its maximum indebtedness and cannot afford to service the debt anymore, thus prompting a reduction in the debt (principal).

So, Europe proved yesterday with the uplift of the EFSF (European Financial Stability Fund) from its current base of €440bn to €1tr (boosting it by 127%), that it certainly has nowhere nearly reached European Peak Debt.

Well, as long as the Capital Markets buy this solution, can make a profit and move on to the next wave of Debt delusion, who are we mere citizens and commentators to criticise the massive instability Big Government and a BIGGER EU causes?

We argued back in 2009 that you cannot solve a “debt crisis with more debt” and this sentiment still rings true today.  So when will they ever learn?

Yours forever indebted,

theMark(debt)etSoul ©2011

Commentary on newly proposed UK Financial Regulation

 

The news headline: Osborne gives Bank of England top regulatory role

 

Our response:

Firstly, we are relieved to see no sweeping statements such as abolishing ‘boom and bust’, which by inference must mean that the ‘normal’ business cycles will from now on resume business as usual, albeit with slightly more volatile amplitudes?

The statement regarding more tools is interesting, because as far as we are aware there are two, maybe three specific tools available in the toolbox at the moment. Fiscal policy and monetary policy and the third one possibly being risk management. Therefore, as with the debate currently evolving between Efficient Market Hypothesis and the behaviourally focussed irrationality school of (economic) thought, that there is no unifying theory yet offered to explain market events, we are still searching for the ‘unifying toolbox’ or rather the Swiss army knife of financial stability and regulation?

“Huntsman” - Victorinox Swiss army knife with ...
Image via Wikipedia

So we can read into the statement that we will add more tools, rather than take tools out of the box never to be returned, such as the retention of Sterling and thus monetary policy.

Therefore, the one important tool at the moment that requires sharpening is the regulatory framework and structures that support both regulation, monitoring, enforcement and dare we say it ‘rehabilitation’, because just like of criminal justice system, even though we have both the laws and enforcement framework, we will always have the offenders and ultimately it is the ‘how to rehabilitate and re-integrate’ them issue that we have to deal with. If moral hazard has now been replaced by having to swallow ‘TARP’-entine (poetic licence evoked) and senior investment grade civil servants (RBS and the half of Lloyds they own), then the compensation schemes being touted and created via banking levies, is the wrong approach and signal to send to the market participants.

The G20 seems to be driving the urgency of the regulatory reform agenda, timeframe and tripartite of Financial Regulatory Standards, capital adequacy and strengthening Corporate Governance regimes as outlined by the Bank for International Settlements. However, some framework agreements have been in place for some time, such as the Norwalk Agreement between the IASB & FASB. Thus, it is not a case of the lack of effort and focus, but rather a lack of urgency and clear objectives in creating a global regulatory and governance framework.

As the BP debacle has illustrated, it does take some time to formulate a coherent response and action plan and if the Global Regulatory Framework is not given sufficient debate, design and implementation time (due to political expediencies), all we will do is sow the seeds of the next crisis, which, as stated before is definitely on the billing in a country near you very soon.

 

theMarketSoul ©2010