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Wayne Duggan

Wayne Duggan

2 years ago

What An Inverted Yield Curve Means For Investors

The yield spread between 10-year and 2-year US Treasury bonds has fallen below 0.2 percent, its lowest level since March 2020. A flattening or negative yield curve can be a bad sign for the economy.

What Is An Inverted Yield Curve? 

In the yield curve, bonds of equal credit quality but different maturities are plotted. The most commonly used yield curve for US investors is a plot of 2-year and 10-year Treasury yields, which have yet to invert.

A typical yield curve has higher interest rates for future maturities. In a flat yield curve, short-term and long-term yields are similar. Inverted yield curves occur when short-term yields exceed long-term yields. Inversions of yield curves have historically occurred during recessions.

Inverted yield curves have preceded each of the past eight US recessions. The good news is they're far leading indicators, meaning a recession is likely not imminent.

Every US recession since 1955 has occurred between six and 24 months after an inversion of the two-year and 10-year Treasury yield curves, according to the San Francisco Fed. So, six months before COVID-19, the yield curve inverted in August 2019.

Looking Ahead

The spread between two-year and 10-year Treasury yields was 0.18 percent on Tuesday, the smallest since before the last US recession. If the graph above continues, a two-year/10-year yield curve inversion could occur within the next few months.

According to Bank of America analyst Stephen Suttmeier, the S&P 500 typically peaks six to seven months after the 2s-10s yield curve inverts, and the US economy enters recession six to seven months later.

Investors appear unconcerned about the flattening yield curve. This is in contrast to the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF TLT +2.19% which was down 1% on Tuesday.

Inversion of the yield curve and rising interest rates have historically harmed stocks. Recessions in the US have historically coincided with or followed the end of a Federal Reserve rate hike cycle, not the start.

More on Economics & Investing

Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow

1 year ago

The current inflation is unique.

New Stiglitz just dropped.

Here's the inflation story everyone believes (warning: it's false): America gave the poor too much money during the recession, and now the economy is awash with free money, which made them so rich they're refusing to work, meaning the economy isn't making anything. Prices are soaring due to increased cash and missing labor.

Lawrence Summers says there's only one answer. We must impoverish the poor: raise interest rates, cause a recession, and eliminate millions of jobs, until the poor are stripped of their underserved fortunes and return to work.

https://pluralistic.net/2021/11/20/quiet-part-out-loud/#profiteering

This is nonsense. Countries around the world suffered inflation during and after lockdowns, whether they gave out humanitarian money to keep people from starvation. America has slightly greater inflation than other OECD countries, but it's not due to big relief packages.

The Causes of and Responses to Today's Inflation, a Roosevelt Institute report by Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and macroeconomist Regmi Ira, debunks this bogus inflation story and offers a more credible explanation for inflation.

https://rooseveltinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/RI CausesofandResponsestoTodaysInflation Report 202212.pdf

Sharp interest rate hikes exacerbate the slump and increase inflation, the authors argue. They compare monetary policy inflation cures to medieval bloodletting, where doctors repeated the same treatment until the patient recovered (for which they received credit) or died (which was more likely).

Let's discuss bloodletting. Inflation hawks warn of the wage price spiral, when inflation rises and powerful workers bargain for higher pay, driving up expenses, prices, and wages. This is the fairy-tale narrative of the 1970s, and it's true except that OPEC's embargo drove up oil prices, which produced inflation. Oh well.

Let's be generous to seventies-haunted inflation hawks and say we're worried about a wage-price spiral. Fantastic! No. Real wages are 2.3% lower than they were in Oct 2021 after peaking in June at 4.8%.

Why did America's powerful workers take a paycut rather than demand inflation-based pay? Weak unions, globalization, economic developments.

Workers don't expect inflation to rise, so they're not requesting inflationary hikes. Inflationary expectations have remained moderate, consistent with our data interpretation.

https://www.newyorkfed.org/microeconomics/sce#/

Neither are workers. Working people see surplus savings as wealth and spend it gradually over their lives, despite rising demand. People may have saved money by staying in during the lockdown, but they don't eat out every night to make up for it. Instead, they keep those savings as precautionary balances. This is why the economy is lagging.

People don't buy non-traded goods with pandemic savings (basically, imports). Imports don't multiply like domestic purchases. If you buy a loaf of bread from the corner baker for $1 and they spend it at the tavern across the street, that dollar generates $3 in economic activity. Spending a dollar on foreign goods leaves the country and any multiplier effect happens there, not in the US.

Only marginally higher wages. The ECI is up 1.6% from 2019. Almost all gains went to the 25% lowest-paid Americans. Contrary to the inflation worry about too much savings, these workers don't make enough to save, even post-pandemic.

Recreation and transit spending are at or below pre-pandemic levels. Higher food and hotel prices (which doesn’t mean we’re buying more food than we were in 2019, just that it costs more).

What causes inflation if not greedy workers, free money, and high demand? The most expensive domestic goods produce the biggest revenues for their manufacturers. They charge you more without paying their workers or suppliers more.

The largest price-gougers are funneling their earnings to rich people who store it offshore through stock buybacks and dividends. A $1 billion stock buyback doesn't buy $1 billion in bread.

Five factors influence US inflation today:

I. Price rises for energy and food

II. shifts in consumer tastes

III. supply interruptions (mainly autos);

IV. increased rents (due to telecommuting);

V. monopoly (AKA price-gouging).

None can be remedied by raising interest rates or laying off workers.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, omicron, and China's Zero Covid policy all disrupted the flow of food, energy, and production inputs. The price went higher because we made less.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, oil prices spiked, and sanctions made it worse. But that was February. By October, oil prices had returned to pre-pandemic, 2015 levels attributable to global economic adjustments, including a shift to renewables. Every new renewable installation reduces oil consumption and affects oil prices.

High food prices have a simple solution. The US and EU have bribed farmers not to produce for 50 years. If the war continues, this program may end, and food prices may decline.

Demand changes. We want different things than in 2019, not more. During the lockdown, people substituted goods. Half of the US toilet-paper supply in 2019 was on commercial-sized rolls. This is created from different mills and stock than our toilet paper.

Lockdown pushed toilet paper demand to residential rolls, causing shortages (the TP hoarding story was just another pandemic urban legend). Because supermarket stores don't have accounts with commercial paper distributors, ordering from languishing stores was difficult. Kleenex and paper towel substitutions caused greater shortages.

All that drove increased costs in numerous product categories, and there were more cases. These increases are transient, caused by supply chain inefficiencies that are resolving.

Demand for frontline staff saw a one-time repricing of pay, which is being recouped as we speak.

Illnesses. Brittle, hollowed-out global supply chains aggravated this. The constant pursuit of cheap labor and minimal regulation by monopolies that dominate most sectors means things are manufactured in far-flung locations. Financialization means any surplus capital assets were sold off years ago, leaving firms with little production slack. After the epidemic, several of these systems took years to restart.

Automobiles are to blame. Financialization and monopolization consolidated microchip and auto production in Taiwan and China. When the lockdowns came, these worldwide corporations cancelled their chip orders, and when they placed fresh orders, they were at the back of the line.

That drove up car prices, which is why the US has slightly higher inflation than other wealthy countries: the economy is car-centric. Automobile prices account for 9% of the CPI. France: 3.6%

Rent shocks and telecommuting. After the epidemic, many professionals moved to exurbs, small towns, and the countryside to work from home. As commercial properties were vacated, it was impractical to adapt them for residential use due to planning restrictions. Addressing these restrictions will cut rent prices more than raising inflation rates, which halts housing construction.

Statistical mirages cause some rent inflation. The CPI estimates what homeowners would pay to rent their properties. When rents rise in your neighborhood, the CPI believes you're spending more on rent even if you have a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

Market dominance. Almost every area of the US economy is dominated by monopolies, whose CEOs disclose on investor calls that they use inflation scares to jack up prices and make record profits.

https://pluralistic.net/2022/02/02/its-the-economy-stupid/#overinflated

Long-term profit margins are rising. Markups averaged 26% from 1960-1980. 2021: 72%. Market concentration explains 81% of markup increases (e.g. monopolization). Profit margins reach a 70-year high in 2022. These elements interact. Monopolies thin out their sectors, making them brittle and sensitive to shocks.

If we're worried about a shrinking workforce, there are more humanitarian and sensible solutions than causing a recession and mass unemployment. Instead, we may boost US production capacity by easing workers' entry into the workforce.

https://pluralistic.net/2022/06/01/factories-to-condos-pipeline/#stuff-not-money

US female workforce participation ranks towards the bottom of developed countries. Many women can't afford to work due to America's lack of daycare, low earnings, and bad working conditions in female-dominated fields. If America doesn't have enough workers, childcare subsidies and minimum wages can help.

By contrast, driving the country into recession with interest-rate hikes will reduce employment, and the last recruited (women, minorities) are the first fired and the last to be rehired. Forcing America into recession won't enhance its capacity to create what its people want; it will degrade it permanently.

Nothing the Fed does can stop price hikes from international markets, lack of supply chain investment, COVID-19 disruptions, climate change, the Ukraine war, or market power. They can worsen it. When supply problems generate inflation, raising interest rates decreases investments that can remedy shortages.

Increasing interest rates won't cut rents since landlords pass on the expenses and high rates restrict investment in new dwellings where tenants could escape the costs.

Fixing the supply fixes supply-side inflation. Increase renewables investment (as the Inflation Reduction Act does). Monopolies can be busted (as the IRA does). Reshore key goods (as the CHIPS Act does). Better pay and child care attract employees.

Windfall taxes can claw back price-gouging corporations' monopoly earnings.

https://pluralistic.net/2022/03/15/sanctions-financing/#soak-the-rich

In 2008, we ruled out fiscal solutions (bailouts for debtors) and turned to monetary policy (bank bailouts). This preserved the economy but increased inequality and eroded public trust.

Monetary policy won't help. Even monetary policy enthusiasts recognize an 18-month lag between action and result. That suggests monetary tightening is unnecessary. Like the medieval bloodletter, central bankers whose interest rate hikes don't work swiftly may do more of the same, bringing the economy to its knees.

Interest rates must rise. Zero-percent interest fueled foolish speculation and financialization. Increasing rates will stop this. Increasing interest rates will destroy the economy and dampen inflation.

Then what? All recent evidence indicate to inflation decreasing on its own, as the authors argue. Supply side difficulties are finally being overcome, evidence shows. Energy and food prices are showing considerable mean reversion, which is disinflationary.

The authors don't recommend doing nothing. Best case scenario, they argue, is that the Fed won't keep raising interest rates until morale improves.

Arthur Hayes

Arthur Hayes

1 year ago

Contagion

(The author's opinions should not be used to make investment decisions or as a recommendation to invest.)

The pandemic and social media pseudoscience have made us all epidemiologists, for better or worse. Flattening the curve, social distancing, lockdowns—remember? Some of you may remember R0 (R naught), the number of healthy humans the average COVID-infected person infects. Thankfully, the world has moved on from Greater China's nightmare. Politicians have refocused their talent for misdirection on getting their constituents invested in the war for Russian Reunification or Russian Aggression, depending on your side of the iron curtain.

Humanity battles two fronts. A war against an invisible virus (I know your Commander in Chief might have told you COVID is over, but viruses don't follow election cycles and their economic impacts linger long after the last rapid-test clinic has closed); and an undeclared World War between US/NATO and Eurasia/Russia/China. The fiscal and monetary authorities' current policies aim to mitigate these two conflicts' economic effects.

Since all politicians are short-sighted, they usually print money to solve most problems. Printing money is the easiest and fastest way to solve most problems because it can be done immediately without much discussion. The alternative—long-term restructuring of our global economy—would hurt stakeholders and require an honest discussion about our civilization's state. Both of those requirements are non-starters for our short-sighted political friends, so whether your government practices capitalism, communism, socialism, or fascism, they all turn to printing money-ism to solve all problems.

Free money stimulates demand, so people buy crap. Overbuying shit raises prices. Inflation. Every nation has food, energy, or goods inflation. The once-docile plebes demand action when the latter two subsets of inflation rise rapidly. They will be heard at the polls or in the streets. What would you do to feed your crying hungry child?

Global central banks During the pandemic, the Fed, PBOC, BOJ, ECB, and BOE printed money to aid their governments. They worried about inflation and promised to remove fiat liquidity and tighten monetary conditions.

Imagine Nate Diaz's round-house kick to the face. The financial markets probably felt that way when the US and a few others withdrew fiat wampum. Sovereign debt markets suffered a near-record bond market rout.

The undeclared WW3 is intensifying, with recent gas pipeline attacks. The global economy is already struggling, and credit withdrawal will worsen the situation. The next pandemic, the Yield Curve Control (YCC) virus, is spreading as major central banks backtrack on inflation promises. All central banks eventually fail.

Here's a scorecard.

In order to save its financial system, BOE recently reverted to Quantitative Easing (QE).

BOJ Continuing YCC to save their banking system and enable affordable government borrowing.

ECB printing money to buy weak EU member bonds, but will soon start Quantitative Tightening (QT).

PBOC Restarting the money printer to give banks liquidity to support the falling residential property market.

Fed raising rates and QT-shrinking balance sheet.

80% of the world's biggest central banks are printing money again. Only the Fed has remained steadfast in the face of a financial market bloodbath, determined to end the inflation for which it is at least partially responsible—the culmination of decades of bad economic policies and a world war.

YCC printing is the worst for fiat currency and society. Because it necessitates central banks fixing a multi-trillion-dollar bond market. YCC central banks promise to infinitely expand their balance sheets to keep a certain interest rate metric below an unnatural ceiling. The market always wins, crushing humanity with inflation.

BOJ's YCC policy is longest-standing. The BOE joined them, and my essay this week argues that the ECB will follow. The ECB joining YCC would make 60% of major central banks follow this terrible policy. Since the PBOC is part of the Chinese financial system, the number could be 80%. The Chinese will lend any amount to meet their economic activity goals.

The BOE committed to a 13-week, GBP 65bn bond price-fixing operation. However, BOEs YCC may return. If you lose to the market, you're stuck. Since the BOE has announced that it will buy your Gilt at inflated prices, why would you not sell them all? Market participants taking advantage of this policy will only push the bank further into the hole it dug itself, so I expect the BOE to re-up this program and count them as YCC.

In a few trading days, the BOE went from a bank determined to slay inflation by raising interest rates and QT to buying an unlimited amount of UK Gilts. I expect the ECB to be dragged kicking and screaming into a similar policy. Spoiler alert: big daddy Fed will eventually die from the YCC virus.

Threadneedle St, London EC2R 8AH, UK

Before we discuss the BOE's recent missteps, a chatroom member called the British royal family the Kardashians with Crowns, which made me laugh. I'm sad about royal attention. If the public was as interested in energy and economic policies as they are in how the late Queen treated Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, UK politicians might not have been able to get away with energy and economic fairy tales.

The BOE printed money to recover from COVID, as all good central banks do. For historical context, this chart shows the BOE's total assets as a percentage of GDP since its founding in the 18th century.

The UK has had a rough three centuries. Pandemics, empire wars, civil wars, world wars. Even so, the BOE's recent money printing was its most aggressive ever!

BOE Total Assets as % of GDP (white) vs. UK CPI

Now, inflation responded slowly to the bank's most aggressive monetary loosening. King Charles wishes the gold line above showed his popularity, but it shows his subjects' suffering.

The BOE recognized early that its money printing caused runaway inflation. In its August 2022 report, the bank predicted that inflation would reach 13% by year end before aggressively tapering in 2023 and 2024.

Aug 2022 BOE Monetary Policy Report

The BOE was the first major central bank to reduce its balance sheet and raise its policy rate to help.

The BOE first raised rates in December 2021. Back then, JayPow wasn't even considering raising rates.

UK policymakers, like most developed nations, believe in energy fairy tales. Namely, that the developed world, which grew in lockstep with hydrocarbon use, could switch to wind and solar by 2050. The UK's energy import bill has grown while coal, North Sea oil, and possibly stranded shale oil have been ignored.

WW3 is an economic war that is balkanizing energy markets, which will continue to inflate. A nation that imports energy and has printed the most money in its history cannot avoid inflation.

The chart above shows that energy inflation is a major cause of plebe pain.

The UK is hit by a double whammy: the BOE must remove credit to reduce demand, and energy prices must rise due to WW3 inflation. That's not economic growth.

Boris Johnson was knocked out by his country's poor economic performance, not his lockdown at 10 Downing St. Prime Minister Truss and her merry band of fools arrived with the tried-and-true government remedy: goodies for everyone.

She released a budget full of economic stimulants. She cut corporate and individual taxes for the rich. She plans to give poor people vouchers for higher energy bills. Woohoo! Margret Thatcher's new pants suit.

My buddy Jim Bianco said Truss budget's problem is that it works. It will boost activity at a time when inflation is over 10%. Truss' budget didn't include austerity measures like tax increases or spending cuts, which the bond market wanted. The bond market protested.

30-year Gilt yield chart. Yields spiked the most ever after Truss announced her budget, as shown. The Gilt market is the longest-running bond market in the world.

The Gilt market showed the pole who's boss with Cardi B.

Before this, the BOE was super-committed to fighting inflation. To their credit, they raised short-term rates and shrank their balance sheet. However, rapid yield rises threatened to destroy the entire highly leveraged UK financial system overnight, forcing them to change course.

Accounting gimmicks allowed by regulators for pension funds posed a systemic threat to the UK banking system. UK pension funds could use interest rate market levered derivatives to match liabilities. When rates rise, short rate derivatives require more margin. The pension funds spent all their money trying to pick stonks and whatever else their sell side banker could stuff them with, so the historic rate spike would have bankrupted them overnight. The FT describes BOE-supervised chicanery well.

To avoid a financial apocalypse, the BOE in one morning abandoned all their hard work and started buying unlimited long-dated Gilts to drive prices down.

Another reminder to never fight a central bank. The 30-year Gilt is shown above. After the BOE restarted the money printer on September 28, this bond rose 30%. Thirty-fucking-percent! Developed market sovereign bonds rarely move daily. You're invested in His Majesty's government obligations, not a Chinese property developer's offshore USD bond.

The political need to give people goodies to help them fight the terrible economy ran into a financial reality. The central bank protected the UK financial system from asset-price deflation because, like all modern economies, it is debt-based and highly levered. As bad as it is, inflation is not their top priority. The BOE example demonstrated that. To save the financial system, they abandoned almost a year of prudent monetary policy in a few hours. They also started the endgame.

Let's play Central Bankers Say the Darndest Things before we go to the continent (and sorry if you live on a continent other than Europe, but you're not culturally relevant).

Pre-meltdown BOE output:

FT, October 17, 2021 On Sunday, the Bank of England governor warned that it must act to curb inflationary pressure, ignoring financial market moves that have priced in the first interest rate increase before the end of the year.

On July 19, 2022, Gov. Andrew Bailey spoke. Our 2% inflation target is unwavering. We'll do our job.

August 4th 2022 MPC monetary policy announcement According to its mandate, the MPC will sustainably return inflation to 2% in the medium term.

Catherine Mann, MPC member, September 5, 2022 speech. Fast and forceful monetary tightening, possibly followed by a hold or reversal, is better than gradualism because it promotes inflation expectations' role in bringing inflation back to 2% over the medium term.

When their financial system nearly collapsed in one trading session, they said:

The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee warned on 28 September that gilt market dysfunction threatened UK financial stability. It advised action and supported the Bank's urgent gilt market purchases for financial stability.

It works when the price goes up but not down. Is my crypto portfolio dysfunctional enough to get a BOE bailout?

Next, the EU and ECB. The ECB is also fighting inflation, but it will also succumb to the YCC virus for the same reasons as the BOE.

Frankfurt am Main, ECB Tower, Sonnemannstraße 20, 60314

Only France and Germany matter economically in the EU. Modern European history has focused on keeping Germany and Russia apart. German manufacturing and cheap Russian goods could change geopolitics.

France created the EU to keep Germany down, and the Germans only cooperated because of WWII guilt. France's interests are shared by the US, which lurks in the shadows to prevent a Germany-Russia alliance. A weak EU benefits US politics. Avoid unification of Eurasia. (I paraphrased daddy Felix because I thought quoting a large part of his most recent missive would get me spanked.)

As with everything, understanding Germany's energy policy is the best way to understand why the German economy is fundamentally fucked and why that spells doom for the EU. Germany, the EU's main economic engine, is being crippled by high energy prices, threatening a depression. This economic downturn threatens the union. The ECB may have to abandon plans to shrink its balance sheet and switch to YCC to save the EU's unholy political union.

France did the smart thing and went all in on nuclear energy, which is rare in geopolitics. 70% of electricity is nuclear-powered. Their manufacturing base can survive Russian gas cuts. Germany cannot.

My boy Zoltan made this great graphic showing how screwed Germany is as cheap Russian gas leaves the industrial economy.

$27 billion of Russian gas powers almost $2 trillion of German economic output, a 75x energy leverage. The German public was duped into believing the same energy fairy tales as their politicians, and they overwhelmingly allowed the Green party to dismantle any efforts to build a nuclear energy ecosystem over the past several decades. Germany, unlike France, must import expensive American and Qatari LNG via supertankers due to Nordstream I and II pipeline sabotage.

American gas exports to Europe are touted by the media. Gas is cheap because America isn't the Western world's swing producer. If gas prices rise domestically in America, the plebes would demand the end of imports to avoid paying more to heat their homes.

German goods would cost much more in this scenario. German producer prices rose 46% YoY in August. The German current account is rapidly approaching zero and will soon be negative.

German PPI Change YoY

German Current Account

The reason this matters is a curious construction called TARGET2. Let’s hear from the horse’s mouth what exactly this beat is:

TARGET2 is the real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system owned and operated by the Eurosystem. Central banks and commercial banks can submit payment orders in euro to TARGET2, where they are processed and settled in central bank money, i.e. money held in an account with a central bank.

Source: ECB

Let me explain this in plain English for those unfamiliar with economic dogma.

This chart shows intra-EU credits and debits. TARGET2. Germany, Europe's powerhouse, is owed money. IOU-buying Greeks buy G-wagons. The G-wagon pickup truck is badass.

If all EU countries had fiat currencies, the Deutsche Mark would be stronger than the Italian Lira, according to the chart above. If Europe had to buy goods from non-EU countries, the Euro would be much weaker. Credits and debits between smaller political units smooth out imbalances in other federal-provincial-state political systems. Financial and fiscal unions allow this. The EU is financial, so the centre cannot force the periphery to settle their imbalances.

Greece has never had to buy Fords or Kias instead of BMWs, but what if Germany had to shut down its auto manufacturing plants due to energy shortages?

Italians have done well buying ammonia from Germany rather than China, but what if BASF had to close its Ludwigshafen facility due to a lack of affordable natural gas?

I think you're seeing the issue.

Instead of Germany, EU countries would owe foreign producers like America, China, South Korea, Japan, etc. Since these countries aren't tied into an uneconomic union for politics, they'll demand hard fiat currency like USD instead of Euros, which have become toilet paper (or toilet plastic).

Keynesian economists have a simple solution for politicians who can't afford market prices. Government debt can maintain production. The debt covers the difference between what a business can afford and the international energy market price.

Germans are monetary policy conservative because of the Weimar Republic's hyperinflation. The Bundesbank is the only thing preventing ECB profligacy. Germany must print its way out without cheap energy. Like other nations, they will issue more bonds for fiscal transfers.

More Bunds mean lower prices. Without German monetary discipline, the Euro would have become a trash currency like any other emerging market that imports energy and food and has uncompetitive labor.

Bunds price all EU country bonds. The ECB's money printing is designed to keep the spread of weak EU member bonds vs. Bunds low. Everyone falls with Bunds.

Like the UK, German politicians seeking re-election will likely cause a Bunds selloff. Bond investors will understandably reject their promises of goodies for industry and individuals to offset the lack of cheap Russian gas. Long-dated Bunds will be smoked like UK Gilts. The ECB will face a wave of ultra-levered financial players who will go bankrupt if they mark to market their fixed income derivatives books at higher Bund yields.

Some treats People: Germany will spend 200B to help consumers and businesses cope with energy prices, including promoting renewable energy.

That, ladies and germs, is why the ECB will immediately abandon QT, move to a stop-gap QE program to normalize the Bund and every other EU bond market, and eventually graduate to YCC as the market vomits bonds of all stripes into Christine Lagarde's loving hands. She probably has soft hands.

The 30-year Bund market has noticed Germany's economic collapse. 2021 yields skyrocketed.

30-year Bund Yield

ECB Says the Darndest Things:

Because inflation is too high and likely to stay above our target for a long time, we took today's decision and expect to raise interest rates further.- Christine Lagarde, ECB Press Conference, Sept 8.

The Governing Council will adjust all of its instruments to stabilize inflation at 2% over the medium term. July 21 ECB Monetary Decision

Everyone struggles with high inflation. The Governing Council will ensure medium-term inflation returns to two percent. June 9th ECB Press Conference

I'm excited to read the after. Like the BOE, the ECB may abandon their plans to shrink their balance sheet and resume QE due to debt market dysfunction.

Eighty Percent

I like YCC like dark chocolate over 80%. ;).

Can 80% of the world's major central banks' QE and/or YCC overcome Sir Powell's toughness on fungible risky asset prices?

Gold and crypto are fungible global risky assets. Satoshis and gold bars are the same in New York, London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Shanghai.

As more Euros, Yen, Renminbi, and Pounds are printed, people will move their savings into Dollars or other stores of value. As the Fed raises rates and reduces its balance sheet, the USD will strengthen. Gold/EUR and BTC/JPY may also attract buyers.

Gold and crypto markets are much smaller than the trillions in fiat money that will be printed, so they will appreciate in non-USD currencies. These flows only matter in one instance because we trade the global or USD price. Arbitrage occurs when BTC/EUR rises faster than EUR/USD. Here is how it works:

  1. An investor based in the USD notices that BTC is expensive in EUR terms.

  2. Instead of buying BTC, this investor borrows USD and then sells it.

  3. After that, they sell BTC and buy EUR.

  4. Then they choose to sell EUR and buy USD.

  5. The investor receives their profit after repaying the USD loan.

This triangular FX arbitrage will align the global/USD BTC price with the elevated EUR, JPY, CNY, and GBP prices.

Even if the Fed continues QT, which I doubt they can do past early 2023, small stores of value like gold and Bitcoin may rise as non-Fed central banks get serious about printing money.

“Arthur, this is just more copium,” you might retort.

Patience. This takes time. Economic and political forcing functions take time. The BOE example shows that bond markets will reject politicians' policies to appease voters. Decades of bad energy policy have no immediate fix. Money printing is the only politically viable option. Bond yields will rise as bond markets see more stimulative budgets, and the over-leveraged fiat debt-based financial system will collapse quickly, followed by a monetary bailout.

America has enough food, fuel, and people. China, Europe, Japan, and the UK suffer. America can be autonomous. Thus, the Fed can prioritize domestic political inflation concerns over supplying the world (and most of its allies) with dollars. A steady flow of dollars allows other nations to print their currencies and buy energy in USD. If the strongest player wins, everyone else loses.

I'm making a GDP-weighted index of these five central banks' money printing. When ready, I'll share its rate of change. This will show when the 80%'s money printing exceeds the Fed's tightening.

Liam Vaughan

Liam Vaughan

1 year ago

Investors can bet big on almost anything on a new prediction market.

Kalshi allows five-figure bets on the Grammys, the next Covid wave, and future SEC commissioners. Worst-case scenario

On Election Day 2020, two young entrepreneurs received a call from the CFTC chairman. Luana Lopes Lara and Tarek Mansour spent 18 months trying to start a new type of financial exchange. Instead of betting on stock prices or commodity futures, people could trade instruments tied to real-world events, such as legislation, the weather, or the Oscar winner.

Heath Tarbert, a Trump appointee, shouted "Congratulations." "You're competing with 1840s-era markets. I'm sure you'll become a powerhouse too."

Companies had tried to introduce similar event markets in the US for years, but Tarbert's agency, the CFTC, said no, arguing they were gambling and prone to cheating. Now the agency has reversed course, approving two 24-year-olds who will have first-mover advantage in what could become a huge new asset class. Kalshi Inc. raised $30 million from venture capitalists within weeks of Tarbert's call, his representative says. Mansour, 26, believes this will be bigger than crypto.

Anyone who's read The Wisdom of Crowds knows prediction markets' potential. Well-designed markets can help draw out knowledge from disparate groups, and research shows that when money is at stake, people make better predictions. Lopes Lara calls it a "bullshit tax." That's why Google, Microsoft, and even the US Department of Defense use prediction markets internally to guide decisions, and why university-linked political betting sites like PredictIt sometimes outperform polls.

Regulators feared Wall Street-scale trading would encourage investors to manipulate reality. If the stakes are high enough, traders could pressure congressional staffers to stall a bill or bet on whether Kanye West's new album will drop this week. When Lopes Lara and Mansour pitched the CFTC, senior regulators raised these issues. Politically appointed commissioners overruled their concerns, and one later joined Kalshi's board.

Will Kanye’s new album come out next week? Yes or no?

Kalshi's victory was due more to lobbying and legal wrangling than to Silicon Valley-style innovation. Lopes Lara and Mansour didn't invent anything; they changed a well-established concept's governance. The result could usher in a new era of market-based enlightenment or push Wall Street's destructive tendencies into the real world.

If Kalshi's founders lacked experience to bolster their CFTC application, they had comical youth success. Lopes Lara studied ballet at the Brazilian Bolshoi before coming to the US. Mansour won France's math Olympiad. They bonded over their work ethic in an MIT computer science class.

Lopes Lara had the idea for Kalshi while interning at a New York hedge fund. When the traders around her weren't working, she noticed they were betting on the news: Would Apple hit a trillion dollars? Kylie Jenner? "It was anything," she says.

Are mortgage rates going up? Yes or no?

Mansour saw the business potential when Lopes Lara suggested it. He interned at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., helping investors prepare for the UK leaving the EU. Goldman sold clients complex stock-and-derivative combinations. As he discussed it with Lopes Lara, they agreed that investors should hedge their risk by betting on Brexit itself rather than an imperfect proxy.

Lopes Lara and Mansour hypothesized how a marketplace might work. They settled on a "event contract," a binary-outcome instrument like "Will inflation hit 5% by the end of the month?" The contract would settle at $1 (if the event happened) or zero (if it didn't), but its price would fluctuate based on market sentiment. After a good debate, a politician's election odds may rise from 50 to 55. Kalshi would charge a commission on every trade and sell data to traders, political campaigns, businesses, and others.

In October 2018, five months after graduation, the pair flew to California to compete in a hackathon for wannabe tech founders organized by the Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator. They built a website in a day and a night and presented it to entrepreneurs the next day. Their prototype barely worked, but they won a three-month mentorship program and $150,000. Michael Seibel, managing director of Y Combinator, said of their idea, "I had to take a chance!"

Will there be another moon landing by 2025?

Seibel's skepticism was rooted in America's historical wariness of gambling. Roulette, poker, and other online casino games are largely illegal, and sports betting was only legal in a few states until May 2018. Kalshi as a risk-hedging platform rather than a bookmaker seemed like a good idea, but convincing the CFTC wouldn't be easy. In 2012, the CFTC said trading on politics had no "economic purpose" and was "contrary to the public interest."

Lopes Lara and Mansour cold-called 60 Googled lawyers during their time at Y Combinator. Everyone advised quitting. Mansour recalls the pain. Jeff Bandman, a former CFTC official, helped them navigate the agency and its characters.

When they weren’t busy trying to recruit lawyers, Lopes Lara and Mansour were meeting early-stage investors. Alfred Lin of Sequoia Capital Operations LLC backed Airbnb, DoorDash, and Uber Technologies. Lin told the founders their idea could capitalize on retail trading and challenge how the financial world manages risk. "Come back with regulatory approval," he said.

In the US, even small bets on most events were once illegal. Under the Commodity Exchange Act, the CFTC can stop exchanges from listing contracts relating to "terrorism, assassination, war" and "gaming" if they are "contrary to the public interest," which was often the case.

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In 1988, as academic interest in the field grew, the agency allowed the University of Iowa to set up a prediction market for research purposes, as long as it didn't make a profit or advertise and limited bets to $500. PredictIt, the biggest and best-known political betting platform in the US, also got an exemption thanks to an association with Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Today, it's a sprawling marketplace with its own subculture and lingo. PredictIt users call it "Rules Cuck Panther" when they lose on a technicality. Major news outlets cite PredictIt's odds on Discord and the Star Spangled Gamblers podcast.

CFTC limits PredictIt bets to $850. To keep traders happy, PredictIt will often run multiple variations of the same question, listing separate contracts for two dozen Democratic primary candidates, for example. A trader could have more than $10,000 riding on a single outcome. Some of the site's traders are current or former campaign staffers who can answer questions like "How many tweets will Donald Trump post from Nov. 20 to 27?" and "When will Anthony Scaramucci's role as White House communications director end?"

According to PredictIt co-founder John Phillips, politicians help explain the site's accuracy. "Prediction markets work well and are accurate because they attract people with superior information," he said in a 2016 podcast. “In the financial stock market, it’s called inside information.”

Will Build Back Better pass? Yes or no?

Trading on nonpublic information is illegal outside of academia, which presented a dilemma for Lopes Lara and Mansour. Kalshi's forecasts needed to be accurate. Kalshi must eliminate insider trading as a regulated entity. Lopes Lara and Mansour wanted to build a high-stakes PredictIt without the anarchy or blurred legal lines—a "New York Stock Exchange for Events." First, they had to convince regulators event trading was safe.

When Lopes Lara and Mansour approached the CFTC in the spring of 2019, some officials in the Division of Market Oversight were skeptical, according to interviews with people involved in the process. For all Kalshi's talk of revolutionizing finance, this was just a turbocharged version of something that had been rejected before.

The DMO couldn't see the big picture. The staff review was supposed to ensure Kalshi could complete a checklist, "23 Core Principles of a Designated Contract Market," which included keeping good records and having enough money. The five commissioners decide. With Trump as president, three of them were ideologically pro-market.

Lopes Lara, Mansour, and their lawyer Bandman, an ex-CFTC official, answered the DMO's questions while lobbying the commissioners on Zoom about the potential of event markets to mitigate risks and make better decisions. Before each meeting, they would write a script and memorize it word for word.

Will student debt be forgiven? Yes or no?

Several prediction markets that hadn't sought regulatory approval bolstered Kalshi's case. Polymarket let customers bet hundreds of thousands of dollars anonymously using cryptocurrencies, making it hard to track. Augur, which facilitates private wagers between parties using blockchain, couldn't regulate bets and hadn't stopped users from betting on assassinations. Kalshi, by comparison, argued it was doing everything right. (The CFTC fined Polymarket $1.4 million for operating an unlicensed exchange in January 2022. Polymarket says it's now compliant and excited to pioneer smart contract-based financial solutions with regulators.

Kalshi was approved unanimously despite some DMO members' concerns about event contracts' riskiness. "Once they check all the boxes, they're in," says a CFTC insider.

Three months after CFTC approval, Kalshi announced funding from Sequoia, Charles Schwab, and Henry Kravis. Sequoia's Lin, who joined the board, said Tarek, Luana, and team created a new way to invest and engage with the world.

The CFTC hadn't asked what markets the exchange planned to run since. After approval, Lopes Lara and Mansour had the momentum. Kalshi's March list of 30 proposed contracts caused chaos at the DMO. The division handles exchanges that create two or three new markets a year. Kalshi’s business model called for new ones practically every day.

Uncontroversial proposals included weather and GDP questions. Others, on the initial list and later, were concerning. DMO officials feared Covid-19 contracts amounted to gambling on human suffering, which is why war and terrorism markets are banned. (Similar logic doomed ex-admiral John Poindexter's Policy Analysis Market, a Bush-era plan to uncover intelligence by having security analysts bet on Middle East events.) Regulators didn't see how predicting the Grammy winners was different from betting on the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Who, other than John Legend, would need to hedge the best R&B album winner?

Event contracts raised new questions for the DMO's product review team. Regulators could block gaming contracts that weren't in the public interest under the Commodity Exchange Act, but no one had defined gaming. It was unclear whether the CFTC had a right or an obligation to consider whether a contract was in the public interest. How was it to determine public interest? Another person familiar with the CFTC review says, "It was a mess." The agency didn't comment.

CFTC staff feared some event contracts could be cheated. Kalshi wanted to run a bee-endangerment market. The DMO pushed back, saying it saw two problems symptomatic of the asset class: traders could press government officials for information, and officials could delay adding the insects to the list to cash in.

The idea that traders might manipulate prediction markets wasn't paranoid. In 2013, academics David Rothschild and Rajiv Sethi found that an unidentified party lost $7 million buying Mitt Romney contracts on Intrade, a now-defunct, unlicensed Irish platform, in the runup to the 2012 election. The authors speculated that the trader, whom they dubbed the “Romney Whale,” may have been looking to boost morale and keep donations coming in.

Kalshi said manipulation and insider trading are risks for any market. It built a surveillance system and said it would hire a team to monitor it. "People trade on events all the time—they just use options and other instruments. This brings everything into the open, Mansour says. Kalshi didn't include election contracts, a red line for CFTC Democrats.

Lopes Lara and Mansour were ready to launch kalshi.com that summer, but the DMO blocked them. Product reviewers were frustrated by spending half their time on an exchange that represented a tiny portion of the derivatives market. Lopes Lara and Mansour pressed politically appointed commissioners during the impasse.

Tarbert, the chairman, had moved on, but Kalshi found a new supporter in Republican Brian Quintenz, a crypto-loving former hedge fund manager. He was unmoved by the DMO's concerns, arguing that speculation on Kalshi's proposed events was desirable and the agency had no legal standing to prevent it. He supported a failed bid to allow NFL futures earlier this year. Others on the commission were cautious but supportive. Given the law's ambiguity, they worried they'd be on shaky ground if Kalshi sued if they blocked a contract. Without a permanent chairman, the agency lacked leadership.

To block a contract, DMO staff needed a majority of commissioners' support, which they didn't have in all but a few cases. "We didn't have the votes," a reviewer says, paraphrasing Hamilton. By the second half of 2021, new contract requests were arriving almost daily at the DMO, and the demoralized and overrun division eventually accepted defeat and stopped fighting back. By the end of the year, three senior DMO officials had left the agency, making it easier for Kalshi to list its contracts unimpeded.

Today, Kalshi is growing. 32 employees work in a SoHo office with big windows and exposed brick. Quintenz, who left the CFTC 10 months after Kalshi was approved, is on its board. He joined because he was interested in the market's hedging and risk management opportunities.

Mid-May, the company's website had 75 markets, such as "Will Q4 GDP be negative?" Will NASA land on the moon by 2025? The exchange recently reached 2 million weekly contracts, a jump from where it started but still a small number compared to other futures exchanges. Early adopters are PredictIt and Polymarket fans. Bets on the site are currently capped at $25,000, but Kalshi hopes to increase that to $100,000 and beyond.

With the regulatory drawbridge down, Lopes Lara and Mansour must move quickly. Chicago's CME Group Inc. plans to offer index-linked event contracts. Kalshi will release a smartphone app to attract customers. After that, it hopes to partner with a big brokerage. Sequoia is a major investor in Robinhood Markets Inc. Robinhood users could have access to Kalshi so that after buying GameStop Corp. shares, they'd be prompted to bet on the Oscars or the next Fed commissioner.

Some, like Illinois Democrat Sean Casten, accuse Robinhood and its competitors of gamifying trading to encourage addiction, but Kalshi doesn't seem worried. Mansour says Kalshi's customers can't bet more than they've deposited, making debt difficult. Eventually, he may introduce leveraged bets.

Tension over event contracts recalls another CFTC episode. Brooksley Born proposed regulating the financial derivatives market in 1994. Alan Greenspan and others in the government opposed her, saying it would stifle innovation and push capital overseas. Unrestrained, derivatives grew into a trillion-dollar industry until 2008, when they sparked the financial crisis.

Today, with a midterm election looming, it seems reasonable to ask whether Kalshi plans to get involved. Elections have historically been the biggest draw in prediction markets, with 125 million shares traded on PredictIt for 2020. “We can’t discuss specifics,” Mansour says. “All I can say is, you know, we’re always working on expanding the universe of things that people can trade on.”

Any election contracts would need CFTC approval, which may be difficult with three Democratic commissioners. A Republican president would change the equation.

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Victoria Kurichenko

Victoria Kurichenko

1 year ago

Here's what happened after I launched my second product on Gumroad.

One-hour ebook sales, affiliate relationships, and more.

Image credit: Karolina Grabovska. The image was edited in Canva

If you follow me, you may know I started a new ebook in August 2022.

Despite publishing on this platform, my website, and Quora, I'm not a writer.

My writing speed is slow, 2,000 words a day, and I struggle to communicate cohesively.

In April 2022, I wrote a successful guide on How to Write Google-Friendly Blog Posts.

I had no email list or social media presence. I've made $1,600+ selling ebooks.

Evidence:

My ebook sales on Gumroad

My first digital offering isn't a book.

It's an actionable guide with my tried-and-true process for writing Google-friendly content.

I'm not bragging.

Established authors like Tim Denning make more from my ebook sales with one newsletter.

This experience taught me writing isn't a privilege.

Writing a book and making money online doesn't require expertise.

Many don't consult experts. They want someone approachable.

Two years passed before I realized my own limits.

I have a brain, two hands, and Internet to spread my message.

I wrote and published a second ebook after the first's success.

On Gumroad, I released my second digital product.

Here's my complete Gumroad evaluation.

Gumroad is a marketplace for content providers to develop and sell sales pages.

Gumroad handles payments and client requests. It's helpful when someone sends a bogus payment receipt requesting an ebook (actual story!).

You'll forget administrative concerns after your first ebook sale.

After my first ebook sale, I did this: I made additional cash!

After every sale, I tell myself, "I built a new semi-passive revenue source."

This thinking shift helps me become less busy while increasing my income and quality of life.

Besides helping others, folks sell evergreen digital things to earn passive money.

It's in my second ebook.

I explain how I built and sold 50+ copies of my SEO writing ebook without being an influencer.

I show how anyone can sell ebooks on Gumroad and automate their sales process.

This is my ebook.

My second ebook on Gumroad

After publicizing the ebook release, I sold three copies within an hour.

Wow, or meh?

I don’t know.

The answer is different for everyone.

These three sales came from a small email list of 40 motivated fans waiting for my ebook release.

I had bigger plans.

I'll market my ebook on Medium, my website, Quora, and email.

I'm testing affiliate partnerships this time.

One of my ebook buyers is now promoting it for 40% commission.

Become my affiliate if you think your readers would like my ebook.

My ebook is a few days old, but I'm interested to see where it goes.

My SEO writing book started without an email list, affiliates, or 4,000 website visitors. I've made four figures.

I'm slowly expanding my communication avenues to have more impact.

Even a small project can open doors you never knew existed.

So began my writing career.

In summary

If you dare, every concept can become a profitable trip.

Before, I couldn't conceive of creating an ebook.

How to Sell eBooks on Gumroad is my second digital product.

Marketing and writing taught me that anything can be sold online.

Victoria Kurichenko

Victoria Kurichenko

1 year ago

What Happened After I Posted an AI-Generated Post on My Website

This could cost you.

Image credit: istockphoto

Content creators may have heard about Google's "Helpful content upgrade."

This change is another Google effort to remove low-quality, repetitive, and AI-generated content.

Why should content creators care?

Because too much content manipulates search results.

My experience includes the following.

Website admins seek high-quality guest posts from me. They send me AI-generated text after I say "yes." My readers are irrelevant. Backlinks are needed.

Companies copy high-ranking content to boost their Google rankings. Unfortunately, it's common.

What does this content offer?

Nothing.

Despite Google's updates and efforts to clean search results, webmasters create manipulative content.

As a marketer, I knew about AI-powered content generation tools. However, I've never tried them.

I use old-fashioned content creation methods to grow my website from 0 to 3,000 monthly views in one year.

Last year, I launched a niche website.

I do keyword research, analyze search intent and competitors' content, write an article, proofread it, and then optimize it.

This strategy is time-consuming.

But it yields results!

Here's proof from Google Analytics:

Traffic report August 2021 — August 2022

Proven strategies yield promising results.

To validate my assumptions and find new strategies, I run many experiments.

I tested an AI-powered content generator.

I used a tool to write this Google-optimized article about SEO for startups.

I wanted to analyze AI-generated content's Google performance.

Here are the outcomes of my test.

First, quality.

I dislike "meh" content. I expect articles to answer my questions. If not, I've wasted my time.

My essays usually include research, personal anecdotes, and what I accomplished and achieved.

AI-generated articles aren't as good because they lack individuality.

Read my AI-generated article about startup SEO to see what I mean.

An excerpt from my AI-generated article.

It's dry and shallow, IMO.

It seems robotic.

I'd use quotes and personal experience to show how SEO for startups is different.

My article paraphrases top-ranked articles on a certain topic.

It's readable but useless. Similar articles abound online. Why read it?

AI-generated content is low-quality.

Let me show you how this content ranks on Google.

The Google Search Console report shows impressions, clicks, and average position.

The AI-generated article performance

Low numbers.

No one opens the 5th Google search result page to read the article. Too far!

You may say the new article will improve.

Marketing-wise, I doubt it.

This article is shorter and less comprehensive than top-ranking pages. It's unlikely to win because of this.

AI-generated content's terrible reality.

I'll compare how this content I wrote for readers and SEO performs.

Both the AI and my article are fresh, but trends are emerging.

Here is how my article written with SEO and users in mind, performs

My article's CTR and average position are higher.

I spent a week researching and producing that piece, unlike AI-generated content. My expert perspective and unique consequences make it interesting to read.

Human-made.

In summary

No content generator can duplicate a human's tone, writing style, or creativity. Artificial content is always inferior.

Not "bad," but inferior.

Demand for content production tools will rise despite Google's efforts to eradicate thin content.

Most won't spend hours producing link-building articles. Costly.

As guest and sponsored posts, artificial content will thrive.

Before accepting a new arrangement, content creators and website owners should consider this.

cdixon

cdixon

1 year ago

2000s Toys, Secrets, and Cycles

During the dot-com bust, I started my internet career. People used the internet intermittently to check email, plan travel, and do research. The average internet user spent 30 minutes online a day, compared to 7 today. To use the internet, you had to "log on" (most people still used dial-up), unlike today's always-on, high-speed mobile internet. In 2001, Amazon's market cap was $2.2B, 1/500th of what it is today. A study asked Americans if they'd adopt broadband, and most said no. They didn't see a need to speed up email, the most popular internet use. The National Academy of Sciences ranked the internet 13th among the 100 greatest inventions, below radio and phones. The internet was a cool invention, but it had limited uses and wasn't a good place to build a business. 

A small but growing movement of developers and founders believed the internet could be more than a read-only medium, allowing anyone to create and publish. This is web 2. The runner up name was read-write web. (These terms were used in prominent publications and conferences.) 

Web 2 concepts included letting users publish whatever they want ("user generated content" was a buzzword), social graphs, APIs and mashups (what we call composability today), and tagging over hierarchical navigation. Technical innovations occurred. A seemingly simple but important one was dynamically updating web pages without reloading. This is now how people expect web apps to work. Mobile devices that could access the web were niche (I was an avid Sidekick user). 

The contrast between what smart founders and engineers discussed over dinner and on weekends and what the mainstream tech world took seriously during the week was striking. Enterprise security appliances, essentially preloaded servers with security software, were a popular trend. Many of the same people would talk about "serious" products at work, then talk about consumer internet products and web 2. It was tech's biggest news. Web 2 products were seen as toys, not real businesses. They were hobbies, not work-related. 

There's a strong correlation between rich product design spaces and what smart people find interesting, which took me some time to learn and led to blog posts like "The next big thing will start out looking like a toy" Web 2's novel product design possibilities sparked dinner and weekend conversations. Imagine combining these features. What if you used this pattern elsewhere? What new product ideas are next? This excited people. "Serious stuff" like security appliances seemed more limited. 

The small and passionate web 2 community also stood out. I attended the first New York Tech meetup in 2004. Everyone fit in Meetup's small conference room. Late at night, people demoed their software and chatted. I have old friends. Sometimes I get asked how I first met old friends like Fred Wilson and Alexis Ohanian. These topics didn't interest many people, especially on the east coast. We were friends. Real community. Alex Rampell, who now works with me at a16z, is someone I met in 2003 when a friend said, "Hey, I met someone else interested in consumer internet." Rare. People were focused and enthusiastic. Revolution seemed imminent. We knew a secret nobody else did. 

My web 2 startup was called SiteAdvisor. When my co-founders and I started developing the idea in 2003, web security was out of control. Phishing and spyware were common on Internet Explorer PCs. SiteAdvisor was designed to warn users about security threats like phishing and spyware, and then, using web 2 concepts like user-generated reviews, add more subjective judgments (similar to what TrustPilot seems to do today). This staged approach was common at the time; I called it "Come for the tool, stay for the network." We built APIs, encouraged mashups, and did SEO marketing. 

Yahoo's 2005 acquisitions of Flickr and Delicious boosted web 2 in 2005. By today's standards, the amounts were small, around $30M each, but it was a signal. Web 2 was assumed to be a fun hobby, a way to build cool stuff, but not a business. Yahoo was a savvy company that said it would make web 2 a priority. 

As I recall, that's when web 2 started becoming mainstream tech. Early web 2 founders transitioned successfully. Other entrepreneurs built on the early enthusiasts' work. Competition shifted from ideation to execution. You had to decide if you wanted to be an idealistic indie bar band or a pragmatic stadium band. 

Web 2 was booming in 2007 Facebook passed 10M users, Twitter grew and got VC funding, and Google bought YouTube. The 2008 financial crisis tested entrepreneurs' resolve. Smart people predicted another great depression as tech funding dried up. 

Many people struggled during the recession. 2008-2011 was a golden age for startups. By 2009, talented founders were flooding Apple's iPhone app store. Mobile apps were booming. Uber, Venmo, Snap, and Instagram were all founded between 2009 and 2011. Social media (which had replaced web 2), cloud computing (which enabled apps to scale server side), and smartphones converged. Even if social, cloud, and mobile improve linearly, the combination could improve exponentially. 

This chart shows how I view product and financial cycles. Product and financial cycles evolve separately. The Nasdaq index is a proxy for the financial sentiment. Financial sentiment wildly fluctuates. 

Next row shows iconic startup or product years. Bottom-row product cycles dictate timing. Product cycles are more predictable than financial cycles because they follow internal logic. In the incubation phase, enthusiasts build products for other enthusiasts on nights and weekends. When the right mix of technology, talent, and community knowledge arrives, products go mainstream. (I show the biggest tech cycles in the chart, but smaller ones happen, like web 2 in the 2000s and fintech and SaaS in the 2010s.) 

Tech has changed since the 2000s. Few tech giants dominate the internet, exerting economic and cultural influence. In the 2000s, web 2 was ignored or dismissed as trivial. Entrenched interests respond aggressively to new movements that could threaten them. Creative patterns from the 2000s continue today, driven by enthusiasts who see possibilities where others don't. Know where to look. Crypto and web 3 are where I'd start. 

Today's negative financial sentiment reminds me of 2008. If we face a prolonged downturn, we can learn from 2008 by preserving capital and focusing on the long term. Keep an eye on the product cycle. Smart people are interested in things with product potential. This becomes true. Toys become necessities. Hobbies become mainstream. Optimists build the future, not cynics.


Full article is available here