Investing
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Episode 95
Featuring Ben Hunt
Demetri Kofinas speaks with investor and author Ben Hunt, about the power of narrative and how it is used to shape and control our behavior as investors. This episode also includes a series of discussions about the legacy of the 2008 financial crisis, identitarian narratives, three-body problems, and crypto ideology.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with investor and author of Epsilon Theory, Ben Hunt, about the power of narrative and how it is used to shape and control our behavior as investors. This episode also includes a series of in-depth discussions about the long legacy of the 2008 financial crisis, identitarian narratives, three-body problems, the challenge of making accurate predictions, and ‘The Great Bitcoin Epic.'

 

Ben Hunt’s background and career path have been anything but ordinary. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard, co-founded multiple tech companies, and managed his own billion-dollar hedge fund. When he isn’t busy writing about market narratives or indeterminant models, you can find him tending to his horses, gathering a fresh basket of eggs, or engaging in other chores on his family farm in Connecticut.

 

The main themes from Epsilon Theory that we focus on in this conversation include the three-body problem, as well as Ben Hunt’s writings on narrative and the power that comes from shaping how people think about the world. This leads to a variety of discussions about various market phenomena, including a unique, thoughtful, and illuminating conversation on bitcoin – its culture, the narrative of bitcoin, how that narrative emerged, how it has evolved, and how it informs the price of bitcoin. Below are time codes to this episode: 

 

06:45 How Markets Changed After March 2009

 

10:33 The Story that Changed the World in the Summer of 2012

 

12:24 No Fundamentals for Markets Anymore

 

15:54 The Three-Body Problem

 

27:02 Past Performance is Not Indicative of Future Behavior

 

32:14 Turning Capital Markets into Political Utilities

 

34:45 Origins of Fed Communication

 

39:04 Forward Guidance and the Loss of Market Resilience

 

40:40 Informational Feedback at the Fed

 

43:50 Inflation vs. Deflation Narrative

 

46:26 The Role of Central Banks

 

49:11 Bear, Lehman, and the Banking Mafia

 

53:19 Shitcoin US Dollars

 

58:15 Facebook Libra and Censorship Embracing Coins

 

1:05:59 The New Bitcoin Narrative 

 

1:08:01 Comparing Development Models for the Internet and Crypto

 

1:09:16 Culture of Bitcoin: Tech vs. Finance

 

1:14:13 Loss of Faith in Government

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Subscribe & Support the Podcast at http://patreon.com/hiddenforces

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Ben Hunt is the CIO at Second Foundation Partners, a consultant for large institutional investors, and the author of Epsilon Theory, a newsletter, and website that examines markets through the lenses of game theory, history, and nature. Over 100,000 professional investors and allocators across 200 countries read Epsilon Theory for its fresh perspective and novel insights into market dynamics. In prior positions, Ben has managed a billion-dollar hedge fund and served as Chief Strategist for a $13 billion-dollar asset manager. He has a Ph.D. from Harvard University, was a tenured Political Science professor, and has co-founded three technology companies. Ben spends lots of time on a family-owned farm, which inspires many original ideas on the parallels between human and animal behavior.

 

@EpsilonTheory

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Leadership
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Episode 94
Featuring Jerry Colonna
Demetri Kofinas speaks with author of REBOOT, Jerry Colonna about leadership and the art of growing up. Learning to be a great leader is also about learning how to become an adult. This requires that we learn how to embrace life in all of its beautify, suffering, and grace.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with author of REBOOT, Jerry Colonna about leadership and the art of growing up. 

 

This is a deeply personal conversation, but it is also one that draws upon the common wellspring of human experience. Learning to be a great leader is also about learning how to become an adult, and this requires that we learn how to embrace life in all of its beauty, suffering, and grace.

 

The introduction to this week’s episode retells the story of Minos, King of Knossos after whom the great Minoan civilization is named. The Minoans populated the islands of the eastern Mediterranean during the second millennium BC, and are thought by some modern scholars of antiquity to have provided the substance for Plato’s Atlantis reference in Timaeus and Critias. 

 

As is often the case, this week’s episode overtime rivals the full episode in quality and depth, as both Jerry and Demetri share personal stories of suffering, grace, and transformation. You can access this part of the recording, along with our entire library of subscription content on the Hidden Forces Patreon page or through the Overtime tab on this episode page.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Subscribe & Support the Podcast at http://patreon.com/hiddenforces

Join the conversation on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

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Episode 4
Featuring Gary Edgerton
Episode 4
Featuring Gary Edgerton

Jerry Colonna is CEO and co-founder of Reboot.io, an executive coaching and leadership development firm dedicated to the notion that better humans make better leaders. He is also the author of ‘REBOOT: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up.’ For nearly 20 years, he has used the knowledge gained as an investor, an executive, and a board member for more than 100 organizations to help entrepreneurs and others to lead with humanity, resilience, and equanimity. Prior to his career as a coach, he was a partner with JPMorgan Partners (JPMP), the private equity arm of JP Morgan Chase. Previously, he led New York City-based Flatiron Partners, which he founded in 1996 with partner, Fred Wilson. Flatiron became one of the nation’s most successful, early-stage investment programs. His first leadership position, at age 25, was editor-in-chief of Information Week magazine. Jerry lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue. Morbi purus libero, faucibus adipiscing, commodo quis, gravida id, est. Sed lectus. Praesent elementum hendrerit tortor. Sed semper lorem at felis. Vestibulum volutpat, lacus a ultrices sagittis, mi neque euismod dui, eu pulvinar nunc sapien ornare nisl. Phasellus pede arcu, dapibus eu, fermentum et, dapibus sed, urna.

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Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue. Morbi purus libero, faucibus adipiscing, commodo quis, gravida id, est. Sed lectus. Praesent elementum hendrerit tortor. Sed semper lorem at felis. Vestibulum volutpat, lacus a ultrices sagittis, mi neque euismod dui, eu pulvinar nunc sapien ornare nisl. Phasellus pede arcu, dapibus eu, fermentum et, dapibus sed, urna.

Morbi interdum mollis sapien. Sed ac risus. Phasellus lacinia, magna a ullamcorper laoreet, lectus arcu pulvinar risus, vitae facilisis libero dolor a purus. Sed vel lacus. Mauris nibh felis, adipiscing varius, adipiscing in, lacinia vel, tellus. Suspendisse ac urna. Etiam pellentesque mauris ut lectus. Nunc tellus ante, mattis eget, gravida vitae, ultricies ac, leo. Integer leo pede, ornare a, lacinia eu, vulputate vel, nisl.

Suspendisse mauris. Fusce accumsan mollis eros. Pellentesque a diam sit amet mi ullamcorper vehicula. Integer adipiscing risus a sem. Nullam quis massa sit amet nibh viverra malesuada. Nunc sem lacus, accumsan quis, faucibus non, congue vel, arcu. Ut scelerisque hendrerit tellus. Integer sagittis. Vivamus a mauris eget arcu gravida tristique. Nunc iaculis mi in ante. Vivamus imperdiet nibh feugiat est.

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Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue. Morbi purus libero, faucibus adipiscing, commodo quis, gravida id, est. Sed lectus. Praesent elementum hendrerit tortor. Sed semper lorem at felis. Vestibulum volutpat, lacus a ultrices sagittis, mi neque euismod dui, eu pulvinar nunc sapien ornare nisl. Phasellus pede arcu, dapibus eu, fermentum et, dapibus sed, urna.

Morbi interdum mollis sapien. Sed ac risus. Phasellus lacinia, magna a ullamcorper laoreet, lectus arcu pulvinar risus, vitae facilisis libero dolor a purus. Sed vel lacus. Mauris nibh felis, adipiscing varius, adipiscing in, lacinia vel, tellus. Suspendisse ac urna. Etiam pellentesque mauris ut lectus. Nunc tellus ante, mattis eget, gravida vitae, ultricies ac, leo. Integer leo pede, ornare a, lacinia eu, vulputate vel, nisl.

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Foreign Affairs
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Episode 93
Featuring Stephen Walt
Demetri Kofinas speaks with Professor of International Affairs Stephen Walt, about the dismal record of America’s foreign policy elite, how their decisions have accelerated a decline in US primacy, and what can be done to arrest this development.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Harvard University's Professor of International Affairs Stephen Walt, about the arch of American foreign policy and the decline of U.S. primacy. 

 

The conversation begins by addressing the major arguments made by America’s foreign policy elite in favor of US engagement and American military leadership abroad. Before the end of World War II, there was no foreign policy “community” in the United States, as there was in the United Kingdom or France. The US was still largely an isolationist country, and the expectation was that it would return to isolation after the allies signed the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947, just as it had after the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Though demobilization started in earnest shortly after the conclusion of the war, the process was arrested soon after it began as the allies came to realize that the Soviet Union presented an altogether new type of threat to Western countries. In 1946, George Kennan, the American charge d’affaires in Moscow, sent what would become arguably the most important telegram in American foreign policy history, rivaled only by that dispatched on behalf of Arthur Zimmermann in 1917: an 8,000-word telegram to the Department of State detailing his views on the Soviet Union and U.S. policy toward the communist state. Known as “The Long Telegram” or “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” George Kennan’s analysis provided one of the most influential underpinnings for what became America’s Cold War policy of containment. With the Soviet Union's detonation of its first Atomic weapon on August 29th, 1949, the Cold War was off to the races. 

 

If the Cold War began with a bang, it ended with a whimper. Forty years after the Soviet’s tested their first atom bomb, the Berlin Wall was torn down by Eastern Europeans and Russians tired of living under totalitarian communism. And yet, rather than demobilize or ramp down America’s military presence abroad, the United States doubled down on it. In the thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States has invaded, occupied, bombed, and sanctioned more countries than almost any American can find on a map. Why this aggression? What are the assumptions that underlie American foreign policy? What has been the arch of international relations since the end of World War 2 and is there a better way forward? These are just some of the questions Stephen Walt and Demetri address in this phenomenal, seventy-minute episode on the past and future of American foreign policy. 

 

As always, subscribers to our Hidden Forces Patreon page can access the Overtime to this week's episode, which includes a discussion about Trump’s foreign policy and how the populist forces unleashed by his election in 2016 are shaping the field of Democratic candidates in 2020. You can access all of our subscription content by supporting the podcast at http://patreon.com/hiddenforces 

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Subscribe & Support the Podcast at http://patreon.com/hiddenforces

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Play
Episode 72
Featuring Senator Bob Kerrey
Episode 72
Featuring Senator Bob Kerrey
Play
Episode 43
Featuring Elizabeth C. Economy
Episode 43
Featuring Elizabeth C. Economy

Stephen Walt (born July 2, 1955) is the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He previously taught at Princeton and at the University of Chicago, where he served as Master of the Social Science Collegiate Division and Deputy Dean of Social Sciences. He has been a Resident Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution, and he has also served as a consultant for the Institute of Defense Analyses, the Center for Naval Analyses, and the National Defense University. He presently serves on the editorial boards of Foreign Policy, Security Studies, International Relations, and Journal of Cold War Studies, and he also serves as Co-Editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, published by Cornell University Press. Additionally, he was elected as a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in May 2005.

 

Professor Walt is the author of The Origins of Alliances (1987), which received the 1988 Edgar S. Furniss National Security Book Award. He is also the author of Revolution and War (1996), Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy (2005), The Israel Lobby (2007), and most recently The Hell of Good Intentions (2018).

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Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue. Morbi purus libero, faucibus adipiscing, commodo quis, gravida id, est. Sed lectus. Praesent elementum hendrerit tortor. Sed semper lorem at felis. Vestibulum volutpat, lacus a ultrices sagittis, mi neque euismod dui, eu pulvinar nunc sapien ornare nisl. Phasellus pede arcu, dapibus eu, fermentum et, dapibus sed, urna.

Morbi interdum mollis sapien. Sed ac risus. Phasellus lacinia, magna a ullamcorper laoreet, lectus arcu pulvinar risus, vitae facilisis libero dolor a purus. Sed vel lacus. Mauris nibh felis, adipiscing varius, adipiscing in, lacinia vel, tellus. Suspendisse ac urna. Etiam pellentesque mauris ut lectus. Nunc tellus ante, mattis eget, gravida vitae, ultricies ac, leo. Integer leo pede, ornare a, lacinia eu, vulputate vel, nisl.

Suspendisse mauris. Fusce accumsan mollis eros. Pellentesque a diam sit amet mi ullamcorper vehicula. Integer adipiscing risus a sem. Nullam quis massa sit amet nibh viverra malesuada. Nunc sem lacus, accumsan quis, faucibus non, congue vel, arcu. Ut scelerisque hendrerit tellus. Integer sagittis. Vivamus a mauris eget arcu gravida tristique. Nunc iaculis mi in ante. Vivamus imperdiet nibh feugiat est.

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Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue. Morbi purus libero, faucibus adipiscing, commodo quis, gravida id, est. Sed lectus. Praesent elementum hendrerit tortor. Sed semper lorem at felis. Vestibulum volutpat, lacus a ultrices sagittis, mi neque euismod dui, eu pulvinar nunc sapien ornare nisl. Phasellus pede arcu, dapibus eu, fermentum et, dapibus sed, urna.

Morbi interdum mollis sapien. Sed ac risus. Phasellus lacinia, magna a ullamcorper laoreet, lectus arcu pulvinar risus, vitae facilisis libero dolor a purus. Sed vel lacus. Mauris nibh felis, adipiscing varius, adipiscing in, lacinia vel, tellus. Suspendisse ac urna. Etiam pellentesque mauris ut lectus. Nunc tellus ante, mattis eget, gravida vitae, ultricies ac, leo. Integer leo pede, ornare a, lacinia eu, vulputate vel, nisl.

Suspendisse mauris. Fusce accumsan mollis eros. Pellentesque a diam sit amet mi ullamcorper vehicula. Integer adipiscing risus a sem. Nullam quis massa sit amet nibh viverra malesuada. Nunc sem lacus, accumsan quis, faucibus non, congue vel, arcu. Ut scelerisque hendrerit tellus. Integer sagittis. Vivamus a mauris eget arcu gravida tristique. Nunc iaculis mi in ante. Vivamus imperdiet nibh feugiat est.

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Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue. Morbi purus libero, faucibus adipiscing, commodo quis, gravida id, est. Sed lectus. Praesent elementum hendrerit tortor. Sed semper lorem at felis. Vestibulum volutpat, lacus a ultrices sagittis, mi neque euismod dui, eu pulvinar nunc sapien ornare nisl. Phasellus pede arcu, dapibus eu, fermentum et, dapibus sed, urna.

Morbi interdum mollis sapien. Sed ac risus. Phasellus lacinia, magna a ullamcorper laoreet, lectus arcu pulvinar risus, vitae facilisis libero dolor a purus. Sed vel lacus. Mauris nibh felis, adipiscing varius, adipiscing in, lacinia vel, tellus. Suspendisse ac urna. Etiam pellentesque mauris ut lectus. Nunc tellus ante, mattis eget, gravida vitae, ultricies ac, leo. Integer leo pede, ornare a, lacinia eu, vulputate vel, nisl.

Suspendisse mauris. Fusce accumsan mollis eros. Pellentesque a diam sit amet mi ullamcorper vehicula. Integer adipiscing risus a sem. Nullam quis massa sit amet nibh viverra malesuada. Nunc sem lacus, accumsan quis, faucibus non, congue vel, arcu. Ut scelerisque hendrerit tellus. Integer sagittis. Vivamus a mauris eget arcu gravida tristique. Nunc iaculis mi in ante. Vivamus imperdiet nibh feugiat est.

Hong Kong
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Hong Kong
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Special Interview
Featuring Joshua Wong
Demetri Kofinas speaks with Hong Kong activist and politician Joshua Wong, often referred to as the “leader of the Hong Kong protests" about the latest developments on the ground, including ongoing efforts by Beijing and the Hong Kong government to put an end to the pro-democracy movements and restore order in the coastal territory.

In this timely Interview, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Hong Kong activist and politician Joshua Wong, who is often referred to by media outlets and the international press as the “leader of the Hong Kong protests.” Joshua shares information about the latest developments on the ground, including ongoing efforts by Beijing and the Hong Kong government to put a stop to the pro-democracy movements and restore order in the coastal territory.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

 

Subscribe & Support the Podcast at http://patreon.com/hiddenforces

Join the conversation on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Play
Episode 43
Featuring Elizabeth C. Economy
Episode 43
Featuring Elizabeth C. Economy

Joshua Wong Chi-fung (Chinese: 黃之鋒; Sidney Lau: Wong4 Ji1 Fung1, born 13 October 1996) is a Hong Kong student activist and politician who serves as secretary-general of pro-democracy party Demosistō. Wong was previously convenor and founder of the Hong Kong student activist group Scholarism. Wong first rose to international prominence during the 2014 Hong Kong protests, and his pivotal role in the Umbrella Movement resulted in his inclusion in TIME magazine's Most Influential Teens of 2014 and nomination for its 2014 Person of the Year; he was further called one of the "world's greatest leaders" by Fortune magazine in 2015, and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

 

In August 2017, Wong and two other pro-democracy activists were convicted and jailed for their roles in the occupation of Civic Square at the incipient stage of the 2014 Occupy Central protests; in January 2018, Wong was convicted and jailed again for failing to comply with a court order for clearance of the Mong Kok protest site during the Mong Kong protests in 2014.

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Hong Kong
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Play
Episode 92
Featuring Ho-Fung Hung
Demetri speaks with Ho-Fung Hung about the upcoming US-China trade talks at the G20 summit amid fallout from the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Ho is professor in political economy at Johns Hopkins University, as well as the author of two books on China, including the award-winning “Protests with Chinese Characteristics.”

In this episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Ho-Fung Hung about the upcoming US-China trade talks happening at the G20 summit this weekend, as Xi Jinping tries to manage the fallout stemming from the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Ho-Fung is the Henry M. and Elizabeth P. Wiesenfeld Professor in Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University, as well as the author of two books on China, including the award-winning “Protests with Chinese Characteristics,” published in 2011. 

 

On June 16th, 2019, an estimated 2 million people took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest the handling of a proposed extradition bill by the Hong Kong government and its Chief Executive Carrie Lam. This followed two massive demonstrations against the extradition bill earlier in the month, including one where police used pepper spray and tear gas against protesters. The controversial bill would allow Hong Kong to extradite to the mainland those accused of crimes under the People’s Republic of China’s Communist Party-led legal system. While Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has suspended the bill, she has also refused to withdraw it. 

 

In this episode, we discuss what the protests mean for the future of Hong Kong and what they say about Hong Kong’s relationship with mainland China. This includes an exploration of Hong Kong history going back to the Opium Wars and the signing of the Treaty of Nanking (Nanjing) in 1842, which ceded the Hong Kong island with surrounding smaller islands, to the United Kingdom in perpetuity. 

 

Hong Kong activists have raised more than HK$5 million ($640,606) in a crowdfunding campaign to take out newspaper ads in a bid to get this controversial extradition bill on the agenda at the G20 summit. We discuss the details of the extradition amendment, but also consider prior offenses by the Hong Kong government that led to similar uprisings. The Umbrella Movement of 2014 is perhaps the most recent, but Ho-Fung and Demetri also discuss the 2003 protests that were then inspired by similar concerns over Basic Law Article 23 that threatened to roll back important civil liberties like freedom of speech. 

 

In addition to the recent Hong Kong protests, Demetri and Ho-Fung Hung spend the duration of the overtime in a conversation about the RMB-USD peg, China’s debilitating debt problem, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the China industrial lobby. Ho-Fung provides a path for how China may manage to avoid an all-out economic collapse after decades of uninterrupted growth and massive credit expansion. This part of the conversation, along with the transcript and rundown to today’s episode can be accessed through our Patreon page at http://patreon.com/hiddenforces.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Subscribe & Support the Podcast at hiddenforces.io/subscribe

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

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Episode 43
Featuring Elizabeth C. Economy
Episode 43
Featuring Elizabeth C. Economy

Ho-Fung Hung is the Henry M. and Elizabeth P. Wiesenfeld Professor in Political Economy in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and in the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of the award-winning Protest with Chinese Characteristics(2011) and The China Boom: Why China Will not Rule the World(2016). His articles have appeared in the New Left Review, The Jacobin, Catalyst, American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review, Development and Change, Review of International Political Economy, Asian Survey, and elsewhere, and have been translated into nine different languages. His analyses of the Chinese political economy and Hong Kong politics have been featured or cited in The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, BBC News, The Guardian, Die Presse (Austria), Folha de S. Paulo (Brazil), The Straits Times (Singapore), The South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Xinhua Monthly (China), and People’s Daily (China), among other publications.

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Suspendisse mauris. Fusce accumsan mollis eros. Pellentesque a diam sit amet mi ullamcorper vehicula. Integer adipiscing risus a sem. Nullam quis massa sit amet nibh viverra malesuada. Nunc sem lacus, accumsan quis, faucibus non, congue vel, arcu. Ut scelerisque hendrerit tellus. Integer sagittis. Vivamus a mauris eget arcu gravida tristique. Nunc iaculis mi in ante. Vivamus imperdiet nibh feugiat est.

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Investing
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Play
Episode 91
Featuring David Rosenberg
Demetri speaks with Chief Economist and Strategist at Gluskin Sheff, David Rosenberg about the latest Fed rate decision and his outlook for the global economy. In the overtime to this week’s episode, David provides listeners with a look into his investment strategy and how he is positioning himself and his clients for a global slowdown.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Chief Economist and Strategist at Gluskin Sheff, David Rosenberg, about the latest Fed rate decision and his outlook for the global economy. In the overtime to this week’s episode, David provides listeners with a look into his investment strategy and how he is positioning himself and his clients for a global slowdown that he believes may already be underway.

 

David Rosenberg and Demetri recorded this episode only hours after the FOMC concluded its two-day meeting this past Wednesday. The Federal Open Market Committee decided to keep the fed funds rate unchanged, while simultaneously signaling a strong willingness to begin easing, possibly as soon as next month.

 

It is David Rosenberg’s conviction that the Federal Reserve has over tightened monetary policy during this cycle possibly by as many as one-hundred basis points – four rate hikes - and that Jay Powell and the board of governors at the Fed are worried that they may have precipitated the bursting of another bubble. This time, however, the bubble isn’t in housing or consumer credit. The bubble in 2019 is in the corporate bond market where multinational corporations have feasted on the issuance of trillions of dollars of new debt used to finance mergers, acquisitions, and share buybacks, while simultaneously cutting back on the capital investment needed to grow their businesses and service their debts long-term.

 

The last ten years have been a great time for stocks, fueled by a bonanza of free money and an implicit guarantee by the Fed to support asset prices at all costs. But the question has always lingered, “What will happen as the Fed continues to raise rates, normalize its balance sheet and tighten monetary policy?” Is this a new financial paradigm where fundamentals no longer matter and perpetual liquidity is the name of the game or does the global economy’s increased reliance on debt financing in order to drive earnings and levitate asset prices remain as unsustainable today as it has been in any prior historical period? Is this time truly different?

 

As always, subscribers to our Hidden Forces Patreon page can access the overtime to this week’s episode, which includes a discussion about how David is positioning himself and his clients for the likelihood of a recession and return to bear market territory for stocks and commodities. We discuss the US dollar, precious metals, treasuries, currencies, as well as certain defensive stocks that David believes are likely to outperform the overall market in a downturn. You can learn more at Patreon.com/HiddenForces.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Subscribe & Support the Podcast at http://patreon.com/hiddenforces

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Play
Special Episode
Featuring Kevin Smith & Otavio Costa
Special Episode
Featuring Kevin Smith & Otavio Costa

David Rosenberg is Chief Economist & Strategist at Gluskin Sheff. Mr. Rosenberg received both a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Toronto. Prior to joining Gluskin Sheff in the spring of 2009, Mr. Rosenberg was Chief North American Economist at Merrill Lynch in New York for seven years, during which he was consistently ranked in the Institutional Investor All-Star analyst rankings. Prior thereto, he was Chief Economist and Strategist for Merrill Lynch Canada, based out of Toronto. 

 

Mr. Rosenberg is also the author of Breakfast with Dave, a daily distillation of his economic and financial market insights. He tweets at @EconguyRosie.

 

For a free trial to Breakfast with Dave click here and use the promo code: HIDDENFORCES2019

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Sed egestas, ante et vulputate volutpat, eros pede semper est, vitae luctus metus libero eu augue. Morbi purus libero, faucibus adipiscing, commodo quis, gravida id, est. Sed lectus. Praesent elementum hendrerit tortor. Sed semper lorem at felis. Vestibulum volutpat, lacus a ultrices sagittis, mi neque euismod dui, eu pulvinar nunc sapien ornare nisl. Phasellus pede arcu, dapibus eu, fermentum et, dapibus sed, urna.

Morbi interdum mollis sapien. Sed ac risus. Phasellus lacinia, magna a ullamcorper laoreet, lectus arcu pulvinar risus, vitae facilisis libero dolor a purus. Sed vel lacus. Mauris nibh felis, adipiscing varius, adipiscing in, lacinia vel, tellus. Suspendisse ac urna. Etiam pellentesque mauris ut lectus. Nunc tellus ante, mattis eget, gravida vitae, ultricies ac, leo. Integer leo pede, ornare a, lacinia eu, vulputate vel, nisl.

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Morbi interdum mollis sapien. Sed ac risus. Phasellus lacinia, magna a ullamcorper laoreet, lectus arcu pulvinar risus, vitae facilisis libero dolor a purus. Sed vel lacus. Mauris nibh felis, adipiscing varius, adipiscing in, lacinia vel, tellus. Suspendisse ac urna. Etiam pellentesque mauris ut lectus. Nunc tellus ante, mattis eget, gravida vitae, ultricies ac, leo. Integer leo pede, ornare a, lacinia eu, vulputate vel, nisl.

Suspendisse mauris. Fusce accumsan mollis eros. Pellentesque a diam sit amet mi ullamcorper vehicula. Integer adipiscing risus a sem. Nullam quis massa sit amet nibh viverra malesuada. Nunc sem lacus, accumsan quis, faucibus non, congue vel, arcu. Ut scelerisque hendrerit tellus. Integer sagittis. Vivamus a mauris eget arcu gravida tristique. Nunc iaculis mi in ante. Vivamus imperdiet nibh feugiat est.

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Military
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Play
Episode 90
Featuring Sec. Ash Carter
Ash Carter shares stories from his time serving under Barack Obama, the unique challenges of dealing with Congress, and the exigencies of protecting the country in an honest and informed exploration about the nature of American power. Additional topics include autonomous weapons, mass surveillance, cyberwarfare, US-China relations, etc.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with former United States Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Secretary Ash Carter served as head of the US Defense Department during President Barack Obama’s second term in office. Before his time as Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter served in the number two and number three positions at the Pentagon.

 

As you can all imagine, it was a privilege for Demetri to have a cabinet secretary on the podcast, particularly someone with Secretary Carter’s breadth of experience and scope of responsibilities. His newly published memoir, “Inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon” offers an insider’s look at what it was like to head the largest department in the government with its millions of staff members and near trillion-dollar budget.

 

Demetri begins this conversation by asking Secretary Ash Carter about his experience serving under Barack Obama, the unique challenges of dealing with Congress, and the exigencies of protecting the citizenry from threats, both at home and abroad. Secretary Carter also addresses some of the constitutional conflicts that arise from NSA surveillance and targeted assassinations of enemy combatants or terrorist suspects operating outside of traditional warzones and military theaters.

 

In this episode, Demetri attempts to identify and do away with many of the assumptions that are embedded in much of the language and in many of the conversations around US foreign policy. This is meant as an honest and informed exploration about the nature of American power and what it means in practice. How we might begin to think about international relations in a gig-economy where people are increasingly working contractually on projects with team members located in just about every corner of the globe?

 

Also, Dr. Carter has thought extensively about the future of warfare in the 21stcentury, including the role of autonomous weapons, artificial intelligence, and cyberwarfare, topics that he and Demetri discuss in this episode as well.

 

The overtime to this week’s episode includes an hour-long excerpt from Demetri’s yet-to-be-released recording with renowned political scientist and historian of American foreign policy Stephen Walt. You can gain access to that recording, as well as obtain a copy of the transcript and rundown to this week’s episode through the Hidden Forces patreon page at Patreon.com/HiddenForces.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Play
Episode 72
Featuring Senator Bob Kerrey
Episode 72
Featuring Senator Bob Kerrey
Play
Episode 43
Featuring Elizabeth C. Economy
Episode 43
Featuring Elizabeth C. Economy
Play
Episode 6
Featuring Joan Freese
Episode 6
Featuring Joan Freese

Ash Carter (born September 24, 1954) is an American public policy professor who served as the 25th Secretary of Defense from February 2015 to January 2017. He is currently Director of the Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School.

 

Ash Carter began his career as a physicist. After a brief experience as an analyst for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, he switched careers to public policy. He joined the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1984 and became chair of the International & Global Affairs faculty. Carter served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy during President Clinton's first term, from 1993 to 1996, responsible for policy regarding the former Soviet states, strategic affairs, and nuclear weapons. During President Obama's first term, he served first as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics and then Deputy Secretary of Defense until December 2013. In February 2015, he replaced Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense and served until the end of the Obama administration.

 

For his service to national security, Carter has on five occasions been awarded the DOD Distinguished Public Service Medal. He has also received the CJCS Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award and the Defense Intelligence Medal for his contributions to intelligence. Carter is author or co-author of 11 books and more than 100 articles on physics, technology, national security, and management.

 

His newly published memoir, “Inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon” offers an insider’s look at what it was like to head the largest department in the government with its millions of staff members and near trillion-dollar budget.

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Futurism
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Episode 89
Featuring Jamie Metzl
Demetri Kofinas speaks with technology futurist and geopolitical expert Jamie Metzl about the innovations happening at the cutting edge of genomic science, synthetic biology, and big data. The two also discuss US-China relations, North Korea’s nuclear program, post-Soviet Russian history, Iraq, Iran, and much more.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Jamie Metzl about innovations happening at the cutting edge of genomic science, synthetic biology, and big data. The two also discuss US-China relations, North Korea’s nuclear program, post-Soviet Russian history, Iraq, Iran, and so much more.

 

Jamie Metzl is described by Wikipedia as “an American technology futurist, geopolitical expert, and writer.” He’s also a novelist, entrepreneur, and media commentator. He’s authored six books, including one with his former boss Richard Clarke, who he worked for at the US State Department and while serving in the National Security Council. Richard Clarke, who was National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism during the late Clinton and early Bush administrations, became a political target after publishing a 2004 memoir about his service in government that was highly critical of the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism efforts before 9/11. He also testified before the 9/11 Commission, which was discussed during the overtime of Episode 72 with Senator Bob Kerrey, who served on the 9/11 Commission. Listeners who are subscribed to our Patreon overtime feed can hear Jamie and Demetri discuss geopolitical history and current affairs, including a discussion about US-China relations, North Korea’s nuclear program, post-Soviet Russian history, Iraq, Iran, and much more.

 

The focus of this full episode, however, is on the consequences stemming from innovations happening in the fields of genomic science, synthetic biology, and big data (designer babies, biohacking, de-extinction, etc.). This is an honest and open conversation about the ethics and prudence of human innovation, and how it’s creating a world that feels alien to many of us. Jamie Metzl also speaks about the social, political, and economic implications of a world where wealthy, well-connected elites or nations with authoritarian governments are able to get their hands on these technologies before the general public.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Play
Episode 72
Featuring Senator Bob Kerrey
Episode 72
Featuring Senator Bob Kerrey

Jamie Metzl is a technology futurist and geopolitical expert, novelist, entrepreneur, media commentator, and Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council. In February 2019, he was appointed to the World Health Organization expert advisory committee on developing global standards for the governance and oversight of human genome editing. Jamie previously served in the U.S. National Security Council, State Department, Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as a Human Rights Officer for the United Nations in Cambodia. He is a former Partner of a New York-based global investment firm, serves on the Advisory Council to Walmart’s Future of Retail Policy Lab, is a faculty member for Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine conference, was Chief Strategy Officer for a biotechnology company, and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District in Kansas City in 2004. Jamie has served as an election monitor in Afghanistan and the Philippines advised the government of North Korea on the establishment of Special Economic Zones and is the Honorary Ambassador to North America of the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Personal Story
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Episode 88
Featuring Eve Ensler
Demetri Kofinas speaks with Tony Award-winning playwright and activist Eve Ensler about her latest book, The Apology, as the two share their life experiences in a deep discussion about gender roles and the responsibility of men in our changing social and cultural landscape.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Tony Award-winning playwright, author, performer, and activist Eve Ensler, about her latest book (The Apology), as the two share their life experiences in a deep discussion about gender roles and the responsibility of men in our changing social and cultural landscape.

 

Eve Ensler has been waiting much of her life for an apology. Sexually and physically abused by her father as a girl, Eve has long grappled with his betrayal and its effects for her whole life. In this deeply personal and open conversation, Demetri and Eve discuss chapters from the book, what it was like for Eve to grow up, how she dealt with her pain and trauma, and what lessons may exist for all of us.

 

Demetri and Eve also share personal life experiences, openly discuss the challenges men and women face and engage in a frank conversation about what will be required from all of us in order to move our society and our politics forward.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Eve Ensler is a Tony Award-winning playwright, author, performer, and activist. Her international phenomenon The Vagina Monologues has been published in 48 languages and performed in more than 140 countries. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller I Am an Emotional Creature, the highly praised In the Body of the World, and many more. She is the founder of V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls (cisgender, transgender, and those who hold fluid identities that are subject to gender-based violence), and One Billion Rising, the largest global mass action to end gender-based violence in over 200 countries. She is a co-founder of the City of Joy, a revolutionary center for women survivors of violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with Christine Schuler Deschryver and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege. She is one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Changed the World” and the Guardian’s “100 Most Influential Women.”

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Philosophy
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Episode 87
Featuring David Weinberger
Demetri Kofinas speaks with philosopher David Weinberger about the science of prediction, its evolution, and its implications for a future where machines may provide better predictions than those generated by traditional models, but which may not be able to provide explanations for their forecasts.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with philosopher David Weinberger about the science of prediction, its evolution, and its future.

 

The two begin by exploring classical approaches developed by early philosophers and mathematicians in the ancient world and upon which advancements were later made by enlightenment thinkers and experimental scientists.   

 

The models developed in this tradition have, until now, provided explanations for phenomena, which are used to make predictions about the future states or trajectories of these and other phenomena that adhere the same laws of action or motion.   

 

What is new today is the evolution of what are known as “machine learning algorithms,” many of which provide superior predictions to those generated by conceptual or working models, but which often times cannot provide explanations for these predictions. They are, in this sense, block-box oracles.   

 

This represents a fundamental break with the sort of epistemological approach taken by the ancient Athenian philosophers who demanded that beliefs be justified by reasoned arguments or those of empirical scientists who relied upon falsifiability of testable hypotheses. In other words, whereas traditional approaches to science have necessitated the development of theoretical models of the world that can be tested empirically through the act of making falsifiable predictions, these new approaches are capable of generating predictions without a means by which to understand the causes at play.    

 

What are the implications of this new science? If predictions provided by highly intelligent machines become consistently more accurate across all domains of study, would we prefer to accept these inexplicable solutions over less accurate ones whose methodology we understand? At the limit, if we were to implement every prediction of every MLA, would we arrive at a fated, perfectly knowable world? If machines become the equivalent of Delphi’s Oracle, what will be the value of doing science? The scientific method, after all, is the means by which we have been able to navigate and understand the material world, in material terms. Does this re-open humanity’s door to the preoccupation with the mystery of conscious experience, which cannot be explained through the scientific method of objective, empirical analysis?  

 

These are the questions we explore in this week’s episode with David Weinberger and Demetri Kofinas.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

David Weinberger is a philosopher by training. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and taught college from 1980-1986. He was a gag writer for the comic strip "Inside Woody Allen" from 1976-1983. David has been a pioneering thought leader about the Internet’s effect on our lives, on our businesses, and most of all, on our ideas, from the earliest days of the Web. He has contributed to fields ranging from marketing to libraries to politics to journalism and more as a strategic marketing VP and consultant; an Internet adviser to presidential campaigns; an early social networking entrepreneur; a writer-in-residence at Google; a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, a fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and a Franklin Fellow at the US State Department. His writing has appeared in publications from Wired to Harvard Business Review and his books include the bestselling The Cluetrain Manifesto.

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Tesla
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Episode 86
Featuring TeslaCharts
Demetri Kofinas speaks with TeslaCharts, one of the leading members of the online community known as TSLAQ, a collection of largely anonymous twitter users united together by their commitment to expose an increasingly dangerous fraud that they believe is being perpetrated against investors and the general public.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with TeslaCharts, one of the leading members of the online community known as TSLAQ, a group of largely anonymous Twitter users who exist to expose the reality behind the Tesla façade.

 

TSLAQ is a hive-like collective of financiers, accountants, Ph.D.’s, lawyers, pilots, and members of just about any other occupational discipline you can imagine. What unites them all is Tesla, or more specifically, their outrage at a CEO who they believe to be a carnival barker running the biggest fraud in corporate America. In the words of TSLAQ’s most prominent member Mark Spiegel, Elon Musk is responsible for “the biggest single stock bubble in this whole bubble market.”

 

According to an article about TSLAQ published for the LA Times, Russ Mitchell writes, “the channel has emerged as a crowd-sourced stock research platform,” where “contributors divide up research duties according to personal interest and ability, with no one in charge.” The “major aim” of this collective, writes Mitchell, “is to change the mind of Tesla stock bulls and the media.”

 

Activist investing and short selling have been around for as long as anyone can remember, but short sellers have traditionally aligned with intrepid, up-and-coming journalists and prominent media outlets in order to “talk their book” and change public opinion about the stock by sharing their proprietary research into the company. Jim Chanos was famous for having worked to expose the fraud at Enron through various media contacts like Bethany McLean, while simultaneously shorting the company’s stock. In other cases, such as with SEC whistleblower Harry Markopolos, “No One Would Listen.”

 

What is unique in this case is the emergent nature of the network behind TSLAQ. It is not proprietary, nor is anyone in control. TSLAQ is not a conspiracy of short-sellers. Rather, it is the spontaneous manifestation of a disparate collection of disaffected people united together by their commitment to exposing an increasingly dangerous fraud that they believe is being perpetrated against investors and the general public.

 

In this episode, we bring light to this phenomenon and help to educate you about its history, its impetus, and its prospects for bursting what may be the greatest stock bubble in our entire bubble market.

 

As always, episodes of Hidden Forces are for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as the basis for financial decisions. All views expressed by Demetri Kofinas and podcast guests are solely their own opinions and should not be construed as financial advice.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

TeslaCharts is one of the leading members of the online community known as TSLAQ, a group of largely anonymous Twitter users who exist to expose the reality behind the Tesla façade. TC’s interest in Tesla was piqued after the solar shingle reveal in 2016 during which Elon Musk displayed as ready-technology a product that was, as TC knew from his own professional experience, unrealistic by all measures. Building on his years as a technical executive with a Fortune 50 company, TC is now a private investor and passionate data visualizer.

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Investing
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Special Episode
Featuring Kevin Smith & Otavio Costa
Investing
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Special Episode
Featuring Kevin Smith & Otavio Costa
In this Special Episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Kevin Smith and Otavio Costa of Crescat Capital about their case for an imminent bear market, a stagflationary economy, and the prospects for gold, stocks, and more.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Kevin Smith and Otavio Costa of Crescat Capital, in a continuation of our recent markets coverage, with a particular focus on specific indicators that could validate a bear market hypothesis.

 

It has been difficult not to feel anxiety and trepidation while looking out across the Value-Price Continuum during the last few years. Many of us understand that our economy no longer functions as advertised. Financialization of the US economy over the past four decades has skewed the relationship between price and value in favor of price, specifically in favor of higher prices. The unprecedented support that monetary authorities provided financial intermediaries and asset holders during the last bear market has created noticeable price distortions and has raised serious questions about the usefulness of traditional indicators in assessing asset values. It is also unclear how meaningful traditional economic data like GDP and unemployment are in the face of ever-higher nominal public/private debt levels and aging populations.

 

We have experienced three intermediate corrections during this secular bull market. Most notably, the periods between the summers of 2011 – 2012 and 2015 – 2016, which proved to be head-fakes for investors who were expecting the market to enter bear territory. With the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite climbing above their all-time closing highs last week, will this last year’s declines prove similarly inconsequential, leading us ever higher in an unusually prolonged bull-market?

 

Kevin Smith and Otavio Costa make their case for why this market rally is different and how they are positioning Crescat Capital and its investors for the bear market to come.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

Kevin C. Smith, CFA Chief Executive Officer & Portfolio Manager Mr. Smith is the owner and founder of Crescat. He is the chief investment officer and has been the portfolio manager of Crescat’s investment strategies since inception in 1999. He holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Prior to Crescat, he worked as an auditor at Ernst and Young, an equity analyst at Zacks Investment Research, and an investment executive at Kidder Peabody. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business with a specialization in finance and concentration in statistics. He holds an undergraduate degree in economics and German studies from Stanford University.

 

Otavio Costa has been an analyst on Crescat’s investment team for more than five years with a focus on global cross-asset research and built Crescat’s macro model that identifies the current stage of the US economic cycle through a combination of 16 factors. His research has been featured multiple times in financial publications such as Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal. Tavi is a native of São Paulo, Brazil and is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. Before joining Crescat, he worked with the underwriting of financial products and in international business at Braservice, a large logistics company in Brazil. Tavi graduated cum laude from Lindenwood University in St. Louis with a B.A. degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in finance and a minor in Spanish. Tavi played NCAA Division 1 tennis for Liberty University.

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Suspendisse mauris. Fusce accumsan mollis eros. Pellentesque a diam sit amet mi ullamcorper vehicula. Integer adipiscing risus a sem. Nullam quis massa sit amet nibh viverra malesuada. Nunc sem lacus, accumsan quis, faucibus non, congue vel, arcu. Ut scelerisque hendrerit tellus. Integer sagittis. Vivamus a mauris eget arcu gravida tristique. Nunc iaculis mi in ante. Vivamus imperdiet nibh feugiat est.

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China Bubble
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Episode 85
Featuring Anne Stevenson-Yang
Demetri Kofinas speaks with China expert Anne Stevenson-Yang about the imminent dangers facing global financial markets in the event of a break in the renminbi-dollar peg.

In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with China expert Anne Stevenson-Yang about the imminent dangers facing global financial markets in the event of a break in the renminbi-dollar peg.

 

In the years leading up to the Great Financial Crisis, it was generally understood that the Chinese were artificially depressing the value of the RMB vis-à-vis the USD, in order maintain an abnormally large current account surplus that would be recycled into western financial markets in the form of government securities, equities, real estate, etc. By recycling so much of the proceeds from trade back into foreign markets, the CCP managed to maintain a lower exchange rate than it otherwise would be, were it to convert those dollars back into renminbi. In other words, China was suppressing the value of its currency. Bob Wittbrot calls this recycling process the “Boomerang Greenback.” This dynamic worked extraordinary well until the world went into recession around the time of the great financial crisis, which marked a peak in China’s current account. The CCP also met the crisis by expanding bank lending, easing credit, and fueling investment even further. In addition, by maintaining interest rates and the cost of capital well-below the rate of inflation during China’s multi-decade boom, the CCP has managed to keep households’ share of the economy at low enough levels to induce an overall high-savings rate for the country (by having less disposable income than would otherwise be expected for an economy this size, the average Chinese citizen spends less on consumption than he or she otherwise would, absent financial repression). This has been an additional shot in the arm for investment.

 

At some point post-2008 (judging from their foreign exchange reserves, this appears to have started somewhere around the start of 2014) China went from artificially suppressing the value of its currency to artificially supporting it. Unlike a country like Thailand, however, whose currency peg famously broke under the speculative attacks of foreign investors during the 1997-98’ Asian Financial Crisis, the Chinese have managed to avoid such a scenario on account of maintaining a closed capital account (exercising tight capital controls). Coupling that with a current account surplus, the CCP has been able to obtain the hard currency it has needed in the last 5 years or so in order to buy the various inputs required to run their economy and keep the cycle going.

 

The problem is that China generated a tremendous amount of money and credit since the GFC, in particular, and therefore risks a major devaluation in the value of the RMB should the country no longer be able to get the foreign exchange reserves it needs through a sustainable current account surplus. They are, at the moment, running a negative current account, a negative fiscal balance (of roughly 9% of GDP), their foreign exchange reserves are declining for the first time ever, while the country’s external debt has doubled in the last five years, increasing by an average of $70 billion per quarter since the beginning of 2017. More than half of this debt is short-term, which means it needs to be constantly rolled over. Up until the Fed paused it’s tightening cycle, the rising interest rates coupled with new tariffs on Chinese goods were creating a pincer-like effect on China’s economy and on its ability to maintain its peg, forcing it to fund more of its dollar needs through borrowing at ever higher interest rates.

 

China cannot maintain a credible peg between the RMB and the USD when its money supply is growing, by some calculations at more than 10x that of the United States over the last 10 years. This is a fundamental problem of accounting. If China were completely self-sufficient – if it had access to sufficient energy, food, base metals, etc. within its own borders – then its inability to obtain dollars would not be an issue. The problem is that it is desperately short these commodities as inputs for its manufacturing and domestic consumption. The recent drop in the price of oil helped them out a bit, but it has been rising again, just as China’s oil imports are surging. The country recently surpassed the United States as the world’s largest crude importer. For a nation with dwindling foreign exchange reserves, this is not a good trend. And, it isn’t even clear what the real FOREX numbers are in China. Official foreign exchange reserve put that number at $3.2 Trillion, but US treasury tick data shows that China owns a little bit less than $1.2 trillion in US Treasuries, which according to some people, suggests that their overall FOREX position is closer to $2 Trillion.

 

Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit fell to $49.4 billion in February, the lowest level since June 2018, and well below what economists had expected. A 20.2% drop in imports from China was the main driver behind the nearly 3.4% improvement in the trade deficit in February, data from the Commerce Department showed. The trade deficit has narrowed for two straight months now.

There seems to be a growing sense of awareness among many in China that all is not well with the country’s capital account. We have seen numbers suggesting that illicit capital has been flowing out of China (whether we are talking about precious stones, Bitcoins, or other means available to the wealthier citizens of China) in noticeably higher amounts since the mini-devaluation in August 2015. This is consistent with what we often see in countries ahead of a devaluation, default, or some other financial disturbance. Do China’s wealthy know something we don’t?

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod