October 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
Many of you ask…
What do you do in these long moments of silence, Tim? The answer is I wait. I wait for opportunity. I uncoil myself, stretch out into evenings of deep solitude.
One of my favourite pastimes these days is to study the old masters—I’m not talking Rembrandt or Caravaggio. I’m talking Seth Klarman and Paul Tudor Jones. Klarman’s superb. Really superb. A genius trader who doesn’t shy away from indulging his genius. But he doesn’t need not to. His success speaks for itself. He’s pillaged more markets than Genghis Khan.
I managed to get my hands on his book “Margin of Safety” published in 1991. If you haven’t read it do so. It’ll give you a new perspective on reality. I, for example, now see the intrinsic value of everything. I see food as calories. I see paintings as auction value. I see night as the absence of light waves.
Unfortunately I paid $15,000 for the book to an old lady in Nebraska. It took me seven hours of hard negotiations to get her down to that price. In the end I felt jaded. Still it was worth it when it arrived. Here’s a nugget.
“Investors will frequently not know why security prices fluctuate.”
How very true! Frequently doesn’t quite cover it, however. I’d make a small tweak:
“Investors will occasionally know why security prices fluctuate.”
There are, of course, certain things even the great man gets wrong.
“Investment success cannot be captured in a mathematical equation or a computer program.”
Hmm, I wonder if he’s heard of Jim Simons? Or the Medallion Fund? Or Steve Cohen?
My other favourite hobby of late is to watch the 1987 Tudor Jones’s famous film “Trader”. If you haven’t seen it do so. It’s not that he calls Bruce Willis “a stud” while wearing his trainers that he bought at auction which he says are responsible for a 30 point pop in the stock market every time he puts them on. Or that he spends most of the film biting his nails and at one point actually breaks down in tears when he loses $5 million in a day (hey, it was 1987, it’s understandable). It’s his incessant drive. His singularity of purpose. Whether it’s on the 1980s style exercise-bike-cum-rowing-machine, the red braces and oversized glasses, the Quotron trading machines or the fact that he breaks down a multi-million dollar currency trade from his phone at home while munching on pizza, he does everything with an innocence that’s impossible to replicate in the more hubristic, less charming modern age.
Of course you’ll be quite lucky to get hold of the film—he bought up and destroyed most of them. I had to purchase an old copy on VHS tape which cost me $12,000 from an old lady in Nebraska. Yes, it was the same one. This time she really took me to the cleaners—16 hours of negotiations. At one point I spent a continuous stretch of 3 hours on the other end of a completely silent phone because she fell asleep on the other end without telling me. That I had to shell out another £212 for a VHS player only added to my chagrin.
This Lady of Dark is called Miss Dorothy L Dickstein—if you ever come across this old crone, beware. She will slay you.
Anyway, as Klarman says, always have a margin of safety. Despite the pain I’ve been through I now hold two assets whose value will grow exponentially over time. Her time value is perishable.
October 8, 2015 § Leave a comment
There is a famous saying-
Sotheby’s will launder your sins for you.
Just today I was strolling round one of the London galleries glancing at the various pieces on show, distracted, rejected, ejected by the atropaic green dot—that is the green dot saying “sold.”
As my own eye shifted warily from piece to piece, I was struck with one thing. How ludicrously expensive it all was. Something’s wrong when you’re paying £1 million for a Taylor Shinbone eggbox.
But it had all been bought by fellow hedge funders.
Waking out of the gallery on this cold and frosty Autumn afternoon, my main take away from the experience is that art continues to increase in price even as the rest of the market shuffles towards the abyss. Why?
It is impossible for a canvas brushed with paint, a marble statue with no arms or a steel and metal monolith with upraised girders in the shape of tubes and a mesh world signifying banker’s excess, to have an intrinsic value of a hundred million dollars. These are not tangible assets like those of a company, say, for example, VW.
For hedge funders, the value of art it isn’t governed by tangible assets. But by jealousy and desire.
Art is an object that provides social currency today. It knits together a select group of global nabobs and those who want to be seen sharing economic and cultural rank with them. They gain from it a thin veneer of respectability that they plaster all over their faces like stage make up.
Look at the Qataris. Who took them seriously until they bought that Cezanne? I knew they had money, but did I know they were going to use it like that? Fuck.
This currency of art gives you access to the dominant economy. It’s a symbol of your membership of a global class of the world’s elite. In the cold nuclear freeze of economic crisis, it is far less important that it can be bought or sold but that you have it. People will follow you, regardless. For the man with the last Leonardo is vinci. In the land of the blind, the trompe l’oeil is king.
Anyway read the next excursion of “Anatomy” here.
September 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
What is a crisis? Is it losing a leg? An arm? An arm and a leg? Being the biggest investor in Glencore? Or is it being unable to afford your next car? Or maybe it’s your mortgage payment going into arrears?
The Greek word krino meant separate, judge or decide, and from it came the nouns krites “judge” – from which we get critic, and kriterion, a test to judge by.The related word “krisis” signified the preference of one alternative over another. The Day of Judgement is hemera kriseos. Most commonly, in English, the word signifies the climax of a disease. The point after which the patient recovers, or does not.
In 2008 the “crisis” involved a minor reshuffling of finances. It was a wound which led to a small death (cf Lehman). But the patient at large got up and recovered. Civil unrest, mass fomentation and revolution–these did not happen. Governments were not overthrown. High net worth wealth rose.
Now talk comes of another crisis, another disease, brought to us by the circling winds. China is battered and our Great Yellow Hope is going belly up. Greece, the cradle of all Western civilisations, falters. The Middle East remains a hotbed of infamy. And the Fed might raise rates.
But no, none of these constitute a crisis, dear readers. What is the real crisis? It’s the crisis that never ended. Debt.
Since 2008 debt to GDP levels have not shrunk. From Q4 2007 to Q2 2014 the global amount of debt outstanding increased from $142 trillion to $199 trillion. Household debt has grown at annual compound rates of 2.8%. Government debt is up 9.3% acr. It is a global credit bubble. And this is bigger than the last one.
But why are you getting so technical, Tim. This isn’t like you. We want to hear more about girls and murders.
Well let me ask you this–if it was debt that got us into trouble the last time, then what will happen now? This crisis is about not being able to afford your next meal. Not having a bed to sleep in overnight. Not being able to clothe your baby. It is a sickness, a disease, a lingering malady from which there will be no revival. Our real hemera kriseos. And if that doesn’t lead to murder then what will?
Change, revolution, deconstruction–whatever you wish to call it– it is coming. There are no tools to stop it.
In the meantime read the next instalment of “Anatomy” which details everything much more poetically.
September 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
I’ve been inundated with press calls. Bloomberg, Süddeutsche Zeitung, the NY Times they’ve all been jumping down my throat. Asking about the precise mechanics of the trade. Who is this Whale. Everyone wants to know.
Although I would normally turn down request from the media actually, right now, I’m open to comment. As is:
You will soon find out.
September 18, 2015 § Leave a comment
The Anatomy of a Trader– Part II
“I glance out of at the street, where men walk around with their umbrellas up, guarding against a chance of drizzle and the blackening sky’s lit by globes of lamplight, it makes the evening vague and dark and not a little sad. Seeing this gloom my mind is truculent. Like days, nights, are sucked up into a void and I feel there’s a gaping hole inside. It seems to me like something’s missing.”
So far the comments on this have been unashamedly homogeneous. Thank you. Nothing pleases me. Except more.
September 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
A long time have I been away. Things, as you know, have not been easy. The world turns in circles, but life has never spun more quickly. I apologise to those who’ve waited days for my release. Who’ve written to me demanding how I am. I couldn’t reply. You’ll soon understand why.
The following is my story, an explanation for my absence– my memoir, if you will. I would like you, my faithful followers, to read. To witness the depths I’ve plunged. The horrors I’ve seen. The style, you’ll find, is different. In reality I’ve worked with a ghost writer. If there’s any discrepancy please blame him. But the tale is all mine. Darker and more twisted than any you will have read.
I have smelt blood. I have drunk.
January 21, 2014 § 2 Comments
Many of you have been asking me about the book. Where is it Tim? We’re dying, desperate, to know what actually happened to you and Nakamura. What occurred when you took on the mightiest hedge fund in the world. Who won? Well we all know the answer to that last question. But rest easy, is my reply. After all trading the markets is a full-time occupation. The book’s merely what one might call, leisure.
In reality I decided to hold back on it as I didn’t want to draw fire away from the publicity currently surrounding the new financial megahit Wolf of Wall Street (Oscar-winner they say?). It is not my intention to step on anyone else’s size 9 John Lobb shoes. I believe that every dog should have his day and the Wolf (vulpini volpes), however tawdry an affair, needs its own publicity. Far be it from me to intrude on that.
So to cut a long story short– the novel is currently in post-production. It will be released in the not too distant future. Probably March.