Posts Tagged ‘Derivatives’

Derivatives are dangerous.  They have dramatically increased the leverage and risks in our financial system.  They have made it almost impossible for investors to understand and analyze our largest commercial banks and investment banks.
    —     Warren Buffett
On This Day In:
2020 Explaining And Gilding
That Way
2019 Lead To Action
2018 Listen And See
2017 The Big Illusion
2016 What Are You Thinking About?
2015 What The Framers Chose
2014 Lost Anything Lately?
A Life Of Science
2013 Serve The World
2012 Acquaintance, n.
2011 On Why His Father Was A Great Teacher
A Baker’s Dozen

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The Big Short”  (2015)  —  movie review
Last night I watched “The Big Short“, which is a movie about how the banking, finance, credit bureaus  and real estate industries defrauded the American public (actually the entire world) and got away with it.  The movie stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling and is rated “R” for language and frontal nudity (brief scenes with strippers).  The movie uses cut-aways to random famous people to provide “definitions / explanations” and (I guess) a bit of levity.  This act of having the person on camera “speak” to the audience is known as “breaking the fourth wall”.
For some time now, about forty years ago, the banking industry moved away from traditional “banking” and started trying to make money off of making money.  This began as an attempt to monetize risk into products which could be sold.  This was done via derivatives, which is a fancy way of saying “money for nothing”.  It is not really “nothing”, it’s position, options, leverage, coverage, insurance, or any number of other names for financial security – or rather, the illusion of financial security.  Some people think of it as shared risk.  I think it’s more traditional name is gambling.
Okay.  I’ll get off my soap-box and get back to the movie.  Four groups of financial players discover the housing market is being fraudulently (and criminally) propped up and, in fact, is in a giant bubble.  A “bubble” happens when greed takes over common sense in a market and prices for the items in the market are far higher than the actual value of the item and / or the ability of the buyer in the market to purchase the item.  Theoretically, when you lose the ability to pay for something, you should stop buying it.  However, in a true bubble, because “everyone” expects the price to continue to increase, the buyers continue to buy under the assumption the price will continue to go up and just before you lose the item (foreclosure for realty), you sell the item and take whatever profit you can.  IF you can time your exit correctly and get out with a profit, you win.  However, this is not true investing.  It is merely speculating.  This speculation is what is at the heart of the movie.
That is the “before” side of the movie.  The four groups know there is a bubble and one of them creates a derivative to profit (vastly) if the housing market bubble bursts.  The other three parties  get wind of the derivative and essentially go “all-in” to bet on the crash.  This is all happening in roughly 2005.  The expectation is the crash will happen in early 2007 when a percentage of mortgage loans which are variable rates with short-term fixed rate teasers have the teaser expire.
When 2007 rolls around and the housing market does crash, the derivatives don’t initially pay out because the banks / credit agencies / insurance companies  and government don’t want the national economy to collapse.  Essentially, the U.S. Taxpayer (via the government) foots the bill for the losses of the restructuring financial market.  Inevitably, a few of the large financial players “go away” (get bought up at severe discount) and the global economy is saved.   Here, the key point of the movie is that the little guy in America loses their home, but none of the fraudulent bankers and financiers goes to jail.  The irony is they (the banks and financiers) have prevented legislation which might stop this from happening again in the future, and we are back on the same roller coaster again.
Final recommendation:  highly.  This is a complicated movie about a complex subject.  The average person seeing the movie will probably not understand the financial portions of the movie.  They will (probably) understand the effects of the bubble burst because most of us have been living through the results (recession) over the last ten years (and still going).  This is not a great movie, but it is an honorable attempt to educate the working people of America.
On This Day In:
2015 Even The Little Ones
2014 Who’s On First?
2013 No Equal Measure
2012 A Single Host
2011 No Exemptions
2010 Memories Of KSA – Inside The Fire

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