The Zeitgeist – 3.28.2019

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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.


How Distributors Can Raise Margins Without Raising Prices [MDM]

Answer: squeeze your suppliers. See, saved you a click.

Or for the same idea in friendly Epsilon Theory fashion, you could read Pricing Power (Part 1).

In the beginning there is the great Black Knight, most fearsome of all warriors.

This is the asset manager, most cartoonishly represented in the popular narrative by the Hedge Fund, but it’s just as much the long-only actively managed mutual fund complex.

Thou shalt pay me my toll of a 2% expense ratio!

None shall pass!

And then the wirehouse takes off your arms and legs.

Pricing power in a services-based industry goes to whoever owns the end-client relationship. Suppliers beware.


Wells Fargo, Mastercard CEOs say blockchain has yet to live up to the hype [CNBC]

I thought about photoshopping Captain Obvious over Tim Sloan in the photo below, but figured I might get sued by Hotels.com. Not for copyright infringement, of course, but for slander. Is there a more despised brand in America today?


It’s Been 86 Days and Bolsonaro Is Already in Trouble in Brazil [Bloomberg]

And then I thought about photoshopping Captain Obvious into this picture, too.

There’s a pattern in today’s Zeitgeist!


Leaving the Enchanted Forest Is Scary [Bloomberg]

Matt Levine (who I enjoy reading) is talking about Unicorn IPOs in this note, so that’s the on-narrative connection here.

But we’ve spent so much time talking about the Unicorn narrative in the Zeitgeist of late that I decided to use this space to tout The Dark Forest, the second book in Cixin Liu’s epic trilogy The Three-Body Problem, as it’s the best use of game theory in a work of fiction that I’ve ever read. People are always asking me for a game theory reading list. Start here.


European Shares Rise On US-China Trade Deal Hopes [Business Insider]

Image result for gravity

Just a few weeks ago, Rusty wrote a note on our Narrative-world analysis of “China Tariffs” in financial media, titled Gravity Sucks. Here’s the skinny:

It’s an interesting mix of circumstances. No edge in trying to engage in fundamental prediction. Very little to make sense of in narrative space either. But the trade and tariffs issue still exerts significant gravity on all stories being told about markets. What’s the result?

Chaos and bullshit.


Mural of Trump milking Saudi king shows Yemenis’ disgust at war [CNN]

My new screensaver!

Actually, I bet The Donald would love this.


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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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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Brian Lama
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Brian Lama

Great timing Tim Sloan on the Blockchain revelation. Now the former CEO of Wells Fargo.

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