The Zeitgeist – 3.18.2019

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Every morning, we run the Narrative Machine on the past 24 hours worth of financial media to find the most on-narrative (i.e. interconnected and central) stories in financial media. It’s not a list of best articles or articles we think are most interesting … often far from it.

But for whatever reason these are articles that are representative of some sort of chord that has been struck in Narrative-world.


Three Bullish ESG Stocks This Week [Forbes]

Epsilon Theory’s unpopular opinion: ESG is not a thing.

Whatever word you use to call ESG a thing … “sector” (like this author), “asset class”, “factor”, whatever … you’re reifying a narrative. You’re making a narrative reflection of a bull market into a thing. Doesn’t mean that thing doesn’t have investable legs. Doesn’t mean that you can’t build a niche advisory business around it. Hell, look at EM. But there’s no there there. Sorry.

Also, a note on investment process (because I can’t help myself). The only words with informational content in this note are “I believe”. Once that’s stated, it is impossible for Buy recommendations NOT to exist. Which means that this is an investment tautology, not an investment process.


At Hedge Fund That Owns Trump Secrets, Clashes and Odd Bond Math [Bloomberg]

The sizzle here is Chatham’s ownership of The National Enquirer, but otherwise it’s a story of an old-school hedge fund. And to think I still get grief from people when I say that the only source of alpha is private information. I suppose these are people who have never traded a bond.


Millennials are the Fastest Growing Cohort Filing Insolvency (In Canada) [Canada Newswire]

Unlike ESG, however, usury IS a thing. JFC.


Lyft Announces Launch of Initial Public Offering [Press Release]

It’s pure inside baseball stuff, but I’m always fascinated by the teams of strange bedfellows that emerge around competing IPOs. Cue the dueling banjos from Deliverance.

It was a fun vacation for Burt Reynolds and the boys at the start of that movie.


A happy retirement is more than just money [CNBC]

The caption to this article photo reads, and I swear to god I am not making this up:

If you enjoy gardening, consider working part-time at a nursery a few years before leaving your job.

What is this “retirement” thing that people keep talking about? Does it still exist? I don’t think it does.


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The Daily Zeitgeist

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

By Ben Hunt | July 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

Financialization is not a mean-reverting phenomenon. It’s too good of a gravy train for Wall Street, corporate management and the White House to stop now. So they won’t. Like any self-respecting Great White shark, the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy never stop swimming. They never stop eating.

Want to survive these financialized waters if you’re potential shark food? You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Read more

When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?

By Ben Hunt | July 12, 2019 | 1 Comment

“De Blasio’s ‘pay parity’ hypocrisy” is a feature article in today’s NY Post, and a central article in today’s media Zeitgeist.

Dig a little deeper into the “scandal”, and you learn that the “evidence” is complete horseshit.

It’s an article specifically designed to manipulate someone like me … someone who is VERY predisposed to believe the worst about Bill de Blasio because I dislike his politics SO MUCH.

It’s a rage engagement, one of two primary forms of Fiat News used to win the Game of You.

Read more

The Upside Down

By Ben Hunt | July 9, 2019 | 1 Comment

Everything is topsy-turvy in the Upside Down of Stranger Things. That’s the Big Baddie in the picture above, known as the Mind Flayer.

Financial media is a Mind Flayer, too, especially when it comes to coverage of crypto and tech companies.

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Raking it in

By Rusty Guinn | July 8, 2019 | 0 Comments

A few months ago, we noted how important it had become for public figures and corporations to control their own cartoon, lest someone control it for them. Well, now that advice has itself become the narrative. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Here We Go Again

By Ben Hunt | July 2, 2019 | 1 Comment

“You just recently hours ago met with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping,” Carlson said. “Are you closer, do you think after that meeting, to a trade deal?”

“I think so,” Trump replied. “We had a very good meeting. He wants to make a deal. I want to make a deal. Very big deal, probably, I guess you’d say the largest deal ever made of any kind, not only trade.”

He just can’t help himself. And neither can we.

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The Solution To The Fintech IPO Shortage

By Rusty Guinn | July 1, 2019 | 0 Comments

There’s a narrative that exists in Fintech that isn’t really present in most other early stage technology businesses. It defines why they’re different, who succeeds and who fails at getting to a liquidity event and a long-term growth trajectory.

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Regarding ESG… having sat in many, many ESG-related pitches and sales-under-the-guise-of-education type presentations, it is truly a fascinating case study in Narrative, along several different dimensions. Storytelling is ever and always central to investment product sales but ESG is so strikingly zeitgeist-compatible that it even manages to subordinate performance as a consideration at times. A rare feat.

I think I’ve also seen nearly every investment under the sun justified in the context of some ESG methodology or another. Wells Fargo equity. Nuclear power generation. Physical gold. In the words of one asset manager (credit for honesty): “Especially once you’re two levels or so deep in the supply chain you really can’t make clear judgments in most cases.”

Sure sounds like a cartoon to me.

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