I suppose that I ought to make this clear; I’m not going to be writing anything, on CT or any of my other blogs, about the current global financial markets meltdown. This is basically because of my professional commitments; as you know, I’m a stockbroker by trade, and what with one thing and another, I’m in a more responsible position than I was when I started blogging. Going through my reasons in a numbered list:
1. I don’t have the time. To state the obvious, market conditions like these make significant demands on my time and energy; this is probably the most intense couple of weeks I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of August 1998.
2 It would be unethical (1). Clearly, I’ve got an economic interest in the unfolding situation in the market. I don’t really want to discuss the nature of that interest (except to note that it isn’t through any of my personal assets being invested), but I’m not a neutral party. Since I can’t declare an interest, and I don’t think it’s ethical to write about matters where you have an interest without declaring it, I’m conflicted out.
3. It would be unethical (2). Even if I were able to declare an interest, I am still not a fan of the practice of “talking one’s book” (publicising the analysis that led you to an investment decision, in the hope that others will agree with that analysis, thus moving prices in your favour). This is a grey area, of course – everyone in the market obviously talks to everyone else all the time, and to a certain extent therefore everyone talks their book – but publishing on a website seems to me to be clearly the other side of an important line; other people draw the line differently and don’t have any problem with publishing their analysis, but I do.
4. I don’t believe it’s possible to simultaneously sell something and give it away for free. This is also a further ethical issue; on the specific subject of the current crisis there are a number of people who have paid quite a lot of money for access to my research. They did so in the reasonable expectation that they would be getting something exclusive and I’m basically going to honour that reasonable expectation.
5. I would have absolutely no control over what happened to the information once it was published. In particular, I would be horribly worried that I’d post something, then the situation would change and render it out of date, but then someone would come along and make some decision or other based on inaccurate information with my name on it. I can’t possibly take on an ongoing open-ended obligation to keep CT up to date with the very latest reaction to developments (particularly because my views might change on the basis of information that I can’t post because it isn’t mine to share), so I’m not going to set that ball rolling.
6. I don’t provide advice to private individuals or to the general reading public. Although not everything one writes about the market is investment advice within the regulatory meaning of the term, there is once more a fine line here and it’s easy to accidentally step over it. Additionally, I personally would use a much more restrictive standard than the regulatory one in terms of thinking about what I’m happy to have on my conscience. Over the course of my career, I’ve come to realise that people really don’t understand the markets very well, and that a non-specialist reading a market commentary written by a market participant has at least an odds-even chance of substantially misinterpreting it. It’s possible to write things simply and correctly for the layman, but it takes more time and effort than I’m currently willing to put in. particularly for a project that could be rendered out of date at any moment.
7. I’m scared of losing my mojo. This is actually probably as important as any of the others. To write about the current crisis and its causes would involve taking an abstract view, looking at things in the long term and thinking about them sub specie aeternatis and at an appropriate level of generality. At present, everything I’m thinking about is very specific and very short term, concentrated on the here and now; I’m reacting, not thinking, and I’m in no position to analyse the psychology of the market because I’m part of that group psychology. Hopefully I’ve got just enough critical distance to be one step ahead, but “one step” is about as far ahead of the markets as it’s ever safe to be, and much more so at the moment (for example, someone who saw the bailout coming on Wednesday would have made a ton of money, but someone who saw it coming last week would probably have lost his shirt, having been forced to close out his position in the meantime). So I’m intentionally not thinking very much about the big-picture stuff at the moment, for fear of gaining a perspective that will cost me money.
I realise that this is presumably pretty unsatisfactory to people who’d been wanting to read what I thought on the blog and I’m sorry about that. I’m not going to hide behind the bloggers’ usual “it’s free/I’m not getting paid” excuse – I do think that CT readers (and my fellow contributors) had a reasonable expectation that I would write something about the crisis on a reasonably timely basis, and I apologise for disappointing you.