Saturday, February 26, 2011

Société Générale's Albert Edwards: On The Resurgence Of The "Conspiracy Of Optimism" (Feb. 26, 2011)

A couple days ago the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard had a line that I found hilarious:
 I share the view of Albert Edwards at Societe Generale that this is a deformed economic recovery...
We once described Ambrose's writing as running "the gamut from despondent to suicidal'.
We are fans of them both.
Here's Zerohedge's intro to Albert's latest:
As regular readers know too well, one topic Zero Hedge enjoys ridiculing with the disdain it deserves is groupthink of any form. The phenomenon, which is nothing but transference of laziness by those who manage other people's money with complete disregard for the consequences of their actions, was among the main reasons for the Great Financial Crash.  As nobody was willing to engage in any form of critical thought, and with the market "only" going up, any investment thesis was predicated solely on what the "other guy" was doing. Of course when it all blew up, it was time to blame the evil rating agencies. After all, heaven forbid someone actually think about the logic behind the credit ratings of hundreds of billions in synthetic CDOs, or worse still, take responsibility for their own stupidity and laziness.

We are now precisely in the same place we were when the market peaked last time around, with groupthink rampant, with any attempt at opposing thought squashed for fears it will end the party early, with sellside analyst optimism at all time highs, and with the administration actively encouraging rampant lies and perpetuation of the myths that take hold in the market with no factual footing whatsoever. The "conspiracy of optimism", as dubbed once by James Montier, has once again fully taken hold.

As SocGen's Albert Edwards points out "despite another post mortem on forecasting failure, nothing has or will change": this is true... until the next crash. Then the finger pointing will begin anew, theatrics about the change in the Status Quo will resume, and once again the Fed will attempt to reflate the latest bubble crash. Only this time there will be no reflation, as the central planning committee's reign of terror will be over, and the fiat monetary system will have ended. Below we present Edwards' most recent solemn and very troubling thoughts on the latest break out of the great groputhink malaise, which will only last as long as the great chairsatan has some control over events. Luckily, with the amplitude from a stable market equilibrium shifting ever greater in either direction, and as the Fed's very existence (remember: the whole point of the central bank is to contain price stability) is repudiated, the time until the reset is now shorter than ever before in history.
Edwards laments:
I was leafing through a critical report into the IMF’s performance in the run-up to the financial crisis by the Independent Evaluation Office of the IMF (see IMF Performance in the Run-Up to the Financial and Economic Crisis: IMF Surveillance in 2004-07 – link).

"Groupthink” mentality effectively sums up the reports criticism in one word. In Chapter 4 entitled Why Did The IMF Fail To Give Clear Warning?, the series of sub-headings reads just like my erstwhile colleague, James Montier’s papers with pronounced cognitive bias being cited as the basis of the view that almost everything in the garden was rosy.

But suppose you were a dissenter – well ... “Staff incentives were not well aligned to foster the candid exchange of ideas that is needed for good surveillance—many staff reported concerns about the consequences of expressing views contrary to those of supervisors, management, and country authorities.” Or let’s shoot the messenger!

Dissenting voices were ridiculed throughout the mid-2000s as the US and UK housing bubbles defied the pessimists’ pronouncements of collapse. For the vast majority of the analytical community, the fact that the cassandras were proved wrong gave them more and more confidence that there was, in fact, no bubble to burst at all, whereas it was clear to many that the crash would end up being all the deeper when it eventually came.

But what has changed? The new groupthink is that the Chinese economy will not crash in the same way as the US economy did in 2008. China’s own Great Moderation has continued for so long, the mainstream will only extrapolate this into the indefinite future. And in developed markets, despite two gut-wrenching equity bear markets in a decade, QE2 has taken analyst optimism back to all-time highs (see chart below).

Société Générale's Albert Edwards (And Goldman Sachs) On "The Biggest Scandal Of The Last Decade": Plunging Labor Force Participation (Feb. 12, 2011)

Société Générale's Albert Edwards: "I Have Been Wrong – I’ve Been Too Bullish" (Jan. 17, 2011)
Société Générale's Albert Edwards: "SocGen Bear Takes a Bite Out of China" (Jan. 3, 2011)
Corrected: Société Générale's Albert Edwards "This Will End in Tears-Again" (December 15, 2010)

Société Générale's Albert Edwards:“Commodity and emerging-market bulls ignore the weak Chinese leading indicator at their peril...” (DEC. 1, 2010)
(lots o'links)