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Short Structural, Long Cyclical

Published on April 10, 2012 by in Research

Time is tough. People struggle to understand it. We can make sense of what’s happening now, can kind of remember what happened in the recent past, and can’t fathom the long-term. All of this is probably because of Twitter or because people no longer write each other long, boring letters like they did during the Civil War or ancient Greece or whenever. For whatever reasons, our attention spans are not only short, but also narrow, able to understand history only as if looking at it through a roll of paper towels.

It is increasingly apparent that everyone — investors, politicians, businessmen, consumers, etc. — have mistaken cyclical trends to be structural in many different areas. We are now at a crescendo as the long arc of history turns and heads back down in the other direction. This is a great opportunity to take advantage of people for whom the short term (the last 1 year, the last 3 years, the last 10 years, the last 30 years, depending on context) is the only relevant term. This is most everyone. It’s a rather large opportunity.

Some facts:

  • Global interest rates are not in secular decline. They have been in a 30yr cyclical decline and the 30yr reversal is now in process.
  • China is not locked in a structural vendor financing agreement with the US & EU. They are ending a long, cyclical run with an under-priced currency.
  • Europe’s imbalances are not the result of a structurally strong, responsible Germany and spendthrift periphery. They are the result of a cyclical trade imbalance due to domestic policies that increased German exports and savings rates while the inverse was true in Span, Greece, etc. The swing is coming back the other way now.
  • Keynesian intervention was not a structural improvement in the operation of the modern fiscal and monetary apparatus. It was a cyclical increase in leverage, starting from a time of low leverage and great demographics. Prepare for the payback.

To quote myself from The Model Business Model: “What is that expression? How does it go? Shit’s way different at this point in history, dude?” Maybe, just maybe, it’s not so different. Maybe we’re just lacking the benefit of the full context.

Recommendation: Short the so-called structural trends. Get long the true, underlying cycle.

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