Friday, July 6, 2012

The FT's Gillian Tett Wonders if a "Summer's Curse" Black Swan is Looming

What a difference apostrophe placement makes. Had it been "Summers' Curse" I'd be worried Larry was going back into government.
If you're an FT subscriber here's the gated version. Otherwise...
From the Financial Times via CNBC:
Five Reasons the Summer Curse May Strike: Gillian Tett
In recent days, several of America’s largest investment groups, such as Fidelity and Northern Trust, have been discreetly reviewing their staff holiday plans. The reason? Right now, with the summer heat rising, the mood in the financial markets seems relatively calm.

But the issue worrying some investment firms is what might be called the “summer curse”; precisely because trading volumes tend to be so thin in the summer months, and senior hands are away, markets can go completely haywire if something does go wrong.
And this “summer curse” is not a theoretical issue. Just think of 1998 (the Russian crisis and Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund implosion); 2007 (the mortgage securities and money market freeze); 2008 (the Fannie Mae “jolt”, which led to the Lehman Brothers disaster); or, for that matter, think back to how markets were rocked last year by the eurozone crisis and the US debt ceiling dramas.
So could this summer be sticky, once again? Personally, I have a nasty feeling that it might, given that the markets are seeing the collision of at least five unwelcome issues:

● The eurozone. This week, markets have rallied, amid relief over the latest eurozone rescue plan. But, as Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary, told the Aspen Ideas festival last weekend, the latest plan has only bought the eurozone “a bit more time” to sort out the longer-term structural woes – and it remains crucially unclear, as ever, whether it can do this. Meanwhile, funding costs for Italy and Spain are unsustainably high, and there is mounting evidence of economic pain (witness the record high unemployment data this week). Investors could well panic again if there are more signs of banking stress or fresh evidence of political discord. Watch out, for example, for the run up to September’s Dutch elections; this could highlight rising levels of bailout fatigue and political extremism – even in the supposedly “sensible” Netherlands....MORE