How Market Complexity Could Trigger the Next Crash
Complex systems are all around us.
By one definition, a complex system is any system that features a large number of interacting components (agents, processes, etc.) whose aggregate activity is nonlinear (not derivable from the summations of the activity of individual components) and typically exhibits hierarchical self-organization under selective pressures.
In today’s infographic from Meraglim we use accumulating snow and an impending avalanche as an example of a complex system – but really, such systems can be found everywhere. Weather is another complex system, and ebb and flow of populations is another example.
Markets are Complex Systems
Just like in the avalanche example, where various factors at the top of a mountain (accumulating volumes of snow, weather, temperature, geology, gravity, etc.) make up a complex system that is difficult to predict, markets are similarly complex.
In fact, markets meet all the properties of complex systems, as outlined by scientists:
System actors have different points of view. (i.e. bullish, bearish, long, short, leveraged, non-leveraged, etc.)
Capital markets are over-connected, and information spreads fast. (i.e. chat rooms, phone calls, emails, Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones, Bloomberg, trading systems, order entry systems, etc.)
Trillions of dollars of securities are exchanged in transactions every day (i.e. stocks, bonds, currencies, derivatives, etc.)
4. Adaptive Behavior
Actors change their behavior based on the signals they are getting (i.e. making or losing money, etc.)
And like the avalanche example, where a single snowflake can trigger a much bigger event, there are increasing signs that the complexity behind the stock market has also reached a critical state.
Markets in a Critical State
Here are just some examples that show how the market has entered into an increasingly critical state:
The VIX, an index that aims to measure the volatility of the market, hit all-time lows this summer.
Bull Market Length
Meanwhile, the current bull market (2009-present) is the second-longest bull market in modern history at 3,109 days. The only bull market that was longer went from the 1987 crash to the Dot-com bust.
Valuations at Highs
Stock valuations, based on Robert Schiller’s CAPE ratio (which looks at cyclically-adjusted price-to-earnings), are approaching all-time highs as well. Right now, it sits 83.3% higher than the historical mean of 16.8. It was only higher in 1929 and 2000, right before big crashes occurred.
Market Goes Up
Investor overconfidence leads investors to believe the market only goes up, and never goes down. Indeed, in this bull market, markets have gone up 67 of the months (an average gain of 3.3%), and have gone down only 34 months (average drop of -2.6%).
Here are some additional signs of systemic risk that make complex markets less stable:
- A densely connected network of bank obligations and liabilities
- Over $70 trillion in debt added since Financial Crisis
- Over $1 quadrillion in notional value of derivatives
- Non-bank shadow finance through hedge funds and securitization make risk impossible to measure
- Increased leverage of banks in some markets
- Greater concentration of financial assets in fewer companies
In other words, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about “snow” accumulation – and any such “snowflake” could trigger the avalanche.
In complex dynamic systems that reach the critical state, the most catastrophic event that can occur is an exponential function of scale. This means that if you double the system, you do not double the risk; you increase it by a factor of five or 10
– Jim Rickards, author of Road to Ruin
The Next Snowflake
What could trigger the next avalanche? It could be anything, including the failure of a major bank, a natural disaster, war, a cyber-financial attack, or any other significant event.
Such “snowflakes” come around every few years:
1987: Black Monday
The Dow fell 508 points (-22.6%) in one day.
1994-95: The Mexican peso crisis
Systemic collapse narrowly avoided when the U.S. government bailed out Mexico using the controversial $20 billion “Exchange Stabilization Fund”.
1997: Asian financial crisis
East Asian currencies fell in value by as much as -38%, and international stocks by as much as -60%.
1998: Long Term Capital Management
Hedge fund LTCM was in extreme distress, and within hours of shutting down every market in the world.
2000: The Dotcom crash
Nasdaq fell -78% in 30 months after early Dotcom companies crashed and burned.
2008: Lehman Brothers bankruptcy
Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and J.P. Morgan were days away from same fate until government stepped in.
Shelter from the Avalanche
The Fed and mainstream economists use equilibrium theory, regressions, and correlations to quantify the markets. And while they pay lip-service to black swans, they don’t have a good way of forecasting them or predicting them.
Markets are complex – and only complexity theory and predictive analytics can help to shed light on their next move.
Alternatively, investors can seek shelter from the storm by investing in assets that cannot be digitally frozen (bank accounts, brokerage accounts, etc.) or have their value inflated away (cash, fixed-income). Such assets include land, precious metals, fine art, and private equity.
The New Rules of Leadership: 5 Forces Shaping Expectations of CEOs
This infographic delves into five major forces reshaping our world and the new rules of leadership that CEOs should follow as a result.
It’s common knowledge that CEOs assume a long list of roles and responsibilities.
But in today’s world, more and more people rely on them to go beyond their day-to-day responsibilities and advocate for broader social change. In fact, a number of external forces are changing how leaders are now expected to behave.
How can leaders juggle these evolving expectations while successfully leading their companies into the future?
The New Rules of Leadership
This infographic from bestselling author Vince Molinaro explores five drivers reshaping our world that leaders must pay attention to in order to bring about real change.
How is the World Being Reshaped?
Leaders need to constantly stay one step ahead of the transformative forces that impact businesses on a broader scale.
Below we outline five key drivers that are changing what it means to be a leader in today’s world:
1. Transformative Technologies
Over the last number of decades, several technologies have emerged that could either accelerate the disruption of companies, or provide them with new opportunities for growth. According to KPMG, 72% of CEOs believe the next three years will be more critical for their industry than the previous 50 years.
For example, artificial intelligence (AI), can now provide companies with insights into what motivates their employees and how they can help them succeed. IBM’s AI predictive attrition program can even predict when employees are about to quit—saving them roughly $300 million in retention costs.
Leaders must accept that the future will be mediated by technology, and how they respond could determine whether or not their organization survives entirely.
2. Geopolitical Instability
Geopolitical risks—such as trade disputes or civil unrest—can have a catastrophic impact on a business’s bottom line, no matter its industry. Although 52% of CEOs believe the geopolitical landscape is having a significant impact on their companies, only a small portion say they have taken active steps to address these risks.
By being more sensitive to the world around them, leaders can anticipate and potentially mitigate these risks. Extensive research into geopolitical trends and leveraging the appropriate experts could support a geopolitical risk strategy, and alleviate some of the potential repercussions.
3. Revolutionizing the Working Environment
As the future of work looms, leaders are being presented with the opportunity to reimagine the inner workings of their company. But right now, they are fighting against a wide spectrum of predictions around what they should expect, with estimations surrounding the automation risk of jobs ranging from 5% to 61% as a prime example.
While physical, repetitive, or basic cognitive tasks carry a higher risk of automation, the critical work that remains will require human interaction, creativity, and judgment.
Leaders should avoid getting caught up in the hype regarding the future of work, and simply focus on helping their employees navigate the next decade.
By creating an inspiring work environment and investing in retraining and reskilling, leaders can nurture employee well-being and create a sense of connectedness and resilience in the workplace.
4. Delivering Diversity
Diversity and inclusion can serve as a path to engaging employees, and leaders are being asked to step up and deliver like never before. A staggering 77% of people feel that CEOs are responsible for leading change on important social issues like racial inequality.
But while delivering diversity, equity, and inclusion seems to be growing in importance, many companies are struggling to understand the weight of this issue.
An example of this is Noah’s Ark Paradox, which describes the belief that hiring “two of every kind” creates a diverse work environment. In reality, this creates a false sense of inclusion because the voices of these people may never actually be heard.
Modern day leaders must create a place of belonging where everyone—regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, or age—is listened to.
5. Repurposing Corporations
The drivers listed above ladder up to the fact that society is looking to businesses to help solve important issues, and leaders are the ones being held accountable.
With 84% of people expecting CEOs to inform conversations and policy debates on one or more pressing issues, from job automation to the impact of globalization, CEOs have the potential to transform their organization by galvanizing employees on the topics that matter to them.
For a long time, the purpose of corporations was purely to create value for shareholders. Now, leaders are obligated to follow a set of five commitments:
- Deliver value to customers
- Invest in employees
- Deal fairly and ethically with suppliers
- Support communities
- Generate long-term value for shareholders
Ultimately, these five commitments build currency for trust, which is critical for sustained growth and building a productive and satisfied workforce.
Lead the Future
If leaders understand the context they operate in, they can identify opportunities that could fuel their organization’s growth, or alternatively, help them pivot in the face of impending threats.
But organizations must invest in the development of their leaders so that they can see the bigger picture—and many are failing to do so.
By recognizing the new rules of leadership, CEOs and managers can successfully lead their organizations, and the world, into a new and uncertain future.
3D Map: The U.S. Cities With the Highest Economic Output
The total U.S. GDP stands at a whopping $21 trillion, but which metro areas contribute to the most in terms of economic output?
3D Map: The U.S. Cities With the Highest Economic Output
At over $21 trillion, the U.S. holds the title of the world’s largest economy—accounting for almost a quarter of the global GDP total. However, the fact is that a few select cities are responsible for a large share of the country’s total economic output.
This unique 3D map from HowMuch puts into perspective the city corridors which contribute the most to the American economy at large.
Top 10 Metros by Economic Output
The visualization pulls the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA, 2018), and ranks the top 10 metro area economies in the country.
One thing is immediately clear—the New York metro area dwarfs all other metro area by a large margin. This cluster, which includes Newark and Jersey City, is bigger than the metro areas surrounding Los Angeles and Chicago combined.
|Rank||Metro Area||State codes||GDP (2018)|
|#1||New York-Newark-Jersey City||NY-NJ-PA||$1.77T|
|#2||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim||CA||$1.05T|
|#7||Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land||TX||$0.48T|
Coming in fourth place is San Francisco on the West Coast, with $549 billion in total economic output each year. Meanwhile in the South, the Dallas metroplex brings in $478 billion, placing it sixth in the ranks.
It’s worth noting that using individual metro areas is one way to view things, but geographers also think of urban life in broader terms as well. Given the proximity of cities in the Northeast, places like Boston, NYC, and Washington, D.C. are sometimes grouped into a single megaregion. When viewed this way, the corridor is actually the world’s largest in economic terms.
U.S. States: Sum of Its Parts
Zooming out beyond just these massive cities demonstrates the combined might of the U.S. in another unique way. Tallying all the urban and rural areas, every state economy can be compared to the size of entire countries.
According to the American Enterprise Institute, the state of California brings in a GDP that rivals the United Kingdom in its entirety.
By this same measure, Texas competes with Canada in terms of pure economic output, despite a total land area that’s 15 times less that of the Great White North.
With COVID-19 continuing to impact parts of the global economy disproportionately, how will these kinds of economic comparisons hold up in the future?
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