Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Big Short

I haven't posted in this space for more than 4 years.  I watched the movie, The Big Short, weekend before last, and I was reminded of much of the good work/research that I had done in this space. There was a point where I didn't think that I would want to view the movie, as so much of it seemed to be a "been there, done that."  Due to some DNA quirk, much of the 'subprime is not a problem' fell false to my ears.  Accordingly, I spent an inordinate amount of time doing amateur research; but I did it, doggedly.  And what I concluded was that there was no way that subprime would not be an issue.

There were several things that led me to that conclusion--not just based on general ramblings of others. You can see some of what I wrote here on subprime, and what I wrote here on hedge funds and systemic risk.

  1. First and foremost, the average income (for people who had income) to loan balance ratio for issued mortgages lowered considerably. Naturally this was a requirement to be able to sell over valued homes.  Runaway home-prices + easy money.  This statistic has NOTHING to do with subprime, but everything to do with stupid underwriting.  And I dug through the information published by the government to find this statistic. one reported on this salient fact.
  2. The risk curve on the mortgage insurers underwriting reports had shifted to the left.  Meaning that defaults were happening more quickly and in greater number.  None were reporting on this published fact (but there was lots of conjecture--correct conjecture).  The supportable facts were there.   I found these reports on line after a bit of rabbit holing on line, and once the fan blades were flinging dung they were soon yanked and not available later.
  3. All of the banks were still basing their loan loss reserves based on passed delinquencies, per my review of the financial statements of both mortgage lenders and the mortgage insurers.  I didn't understand that in relation to number 1 above.  I also don't understand why none were reporting on this--it was one of the easiest things in the world to discover and it was something that was worthy of being reported.
  4. The amount of synthetic instruments (credit default swaps) were not reported on any exchange. Accordingly, after reading some information about what happened in 1929 and the role of off-exchange instruments in the collapse, I believed that there would be a problem.
  5. That insurance companies who heavily invested in bonds had balance sheet risk was not anticipated in the news outlets.  My research (and I wrote about it in this space) told me that it would.
One of the things that I identified with in the movie is the "early is wrong."  Most palpable to me was the emotional wringing that these guys went through--to be 'right', but not seeing evidential matter in the market prices to support their positions.  I though the movie did a great job of conveying that angst and inner turmoil.

Finally, the tongue in cheek nature of several of the asides to explain some of the technicals was inspired.  The complexity of all of it is snooze worthy--but having the likes of Selena Gomez, Anthony Bordain explain it made these concepts accessible.

I may spend a little more time looking at a few market 'things' and posting here.