Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On the Bus ??

It started out bright, fun, and energetic. Being on the bus was the main idea of author Ken Kesey, friend (driver, and general loser) Neal Cassady and the now-notorious Merry Pranksters. Tom Wolfe glorified them (and the bus)in The Electric Kool-Acid Test, and though I will not pass judgment on it all here, I will point out that whatever it meant, it provides a good metaphor for "the liquidity trade" in all things whose prices are sensitive to continued robust growth in liquidity and credit. In calendar year 2007, you are either "on the bus" or you're not.

Though Abby Cohen, Trennart, and Bianco were reported by Bloomberg to have prophecized that the market will explode upwards between now and year-end, they are at present pissing in the wind of most economic stats, the withering consumer, poor TIC data, the bond market, not to mention those equity internals who, one-by-one are getting off the bus.

The NDX with a high tech and consequentially, international component to their businesses, along with some non-US stocks and a small basket of hyper-growth stocks are feeling increasingly isolated, and are just about hanging in. This is contrasted by the Transports (TRAN), Small-caps (RTY), and Real Estate (S15REAL) and Retail (SPRETC) all look positively horrid. Copper is withering apparently irredeemably, while materials more generally barely are hanging in due wholly to the precious component. Retail and Real estate look decidedly oversold, while anything housing or mortgage by this stage look like Georgia after Sherman's romp, yet their collective depreciation continues unabated. Only Gold, Silver, and short USD vs. everything except CAD are arguably still on the bus.

The intra-day ranges are accelerating in their speed and the viciousness of reversals. Probably because there is an increasing urgency of unwinding amongst so-called "quants", the liquidity providers of the last five years, who themselves have been ejected from the bus, thereby intensifying volatility, of the market in general, and their positions being unwound, in particular.

In case you were wondering about what happen to the panksters and the bus, in November 67 Ken Kesey goes back to Springfield, Oregon. Cassady is found dead in Mexico. Drugs and a heart-attack. The Pranksters split up. Various communes. Pigpen is dead. Garcia is dead. People still make the pilgrimage to Springfield, to pay the former chief Prankster a visit, for he is still there. And there, they see the bus — it’s still there, parked beside the house, a shell of its former self.


Charles Butler said...

The thing is, Cass, that successful abrupt, utopian breaks with the past, such as the bus, demand that the future accommodate what was their vision of it. Hence, forty years later we find ourselves in a world where (despite the fact that the remaining vestiges of the era convince as much as a detached, but yet to cede, lizard's tail) even economic recessions are not permissable. In a word - paradise. It might well find a way to continue now. But the baby boom hitting 65?

wcw said...

In re the 1960s, I give you the 1920s: progenitor of the bulk of American culture (and especially male business culture) from the 1950s to more-or-less the present. The 1960s didn't take quite as well, but they certainly had their effect. You can't ignore them.

Full disclosure: my roommate back when decided *he* wanted a bus. Someone gave him one. It moved from parking spot to parking spot. Eventually he gave it away himself. I am not friend of "the bus".

"Cassandra" said...

Full disclosure: I want to get on the bus, but they won't let me because I can't produce the xact change required.

Charles Butler said...

wcw -

I'd suggest looking to the 1880's, actually - the true wellspring of the current paradise.

Dave L said...

Hey, hey, hey!

"Garcia is dead."

Sure, 28 YEARS LATER! -- in his long-run, which will eventually be all of ours.

Other than that, good post.

Anonymous said...

I might argue that America needed the Pranksters, what with Nixon and Agnew, and all the cold war BS. One could also argue the world needs liquidity, and I might agree, even if it be conjured and sprinkled forth by rich-nation decree like SDR-pixie dust. But instead it [conjured promises] has been flowing uphill to over-indulged US consumers that know NOT the exchange value of a unit of work, or their assets, nor the scarcity value of resources. But the pranksters became irrelevant as will the need for trickle-down American profligacy.