> Initially successful with annualized return of over 21% (after fees) in its first year, 43% in the second year and 41% in the third year, in 1998 it lost $4.6 billion in less than four months following the 1997 Asian financial crisis and 1998 Russian financial crisis requiring financial intervention by the Federal Reserve, with the fund liquidating and dissolving in early 2000.
Most people read this book but I think the above book is much better.
I'd recommend reading both if this sort of thing interests you, in the order that they are listed.
Since this article is mostly about LTCM, its kindof interesting to look at their downfall and realize that in the end they were right, their trades ended up being profitable, they were just so leveraged that when the markets started to diverge they couldn't make their margin calls.
Interestingly the reason things went south so fast was that LTCM and the banks had different risk models.
To LTCM they would do spread trades, where you take 2 very similar instruments, the article mentions 29.5 and 30 year bonds. You short the one you think is expensive and buy the one you think is cheap and hold them until the prices converge.
This has a nice risk management feature that the risk on both cancel each other out almost as if the markets move up, your long leg covers the loss on your short leg and visa versa if markets move down.
Unfortunately, partially due to secrecy(trying to hide what they were doing) and partially due to just who had the bond inventory to short from, they often ended up having the long leg and the sort leg at two different banks.
So to LTCM they were perfectly hedged, while to the bank with the short positions, if the market went up they needed LTCM to send them more margin. So LTCM, which was already heavily leveraged was required to send their prime brokers margin that they never figured they'd need to.
Couple that with markets that started move in an unprecedented manner caused too many of their spreads to diverge beyond what they could cover.
The firm ends up getting a margin call it can't afford, liquidates everything to its prime brokers and other investment banks and those banks end up making money off their trades in a time frame from 6 months (for Goldman) to 3 years for the longer term bonds.
Even when your models are right the market can still rip you to shreds:(
As to book recommendations below is a picture of my work bookshelf. Id' recommend most of
the books on the shelf:
[my emphasis on "when"]
I think the "when" is a huge part of the puzzle. How can an algorithm know the difference between a flash crash that will get remedied within 24 hours vs a longer period of irrational pricing that takes months to sort out?
For example, at the time of the famous LTCM downfall, it held several arbitrage positions that were eventually proven right... but they didn't have sufficient capital reserves to survive the short term irrational spreads (Russian default, flight to US Treasuries, etc). I'm not saying that LTCM didn't have many other flaws of risk analysis that would have also caused their downfall but in that one case, it was an illustration of "the markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent."
In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management - Roger Lowenstein
Projected to be less tomorrow? Says who? I would think that JP Morgan would not accept even a $2/share buy out if they thought it would be worth less tomorrow. They would only make such an offer if they thought it was a good deal to them with a potential upside. Thus they are willing to buy a "illiquid" asset and provide "liquidity" for "value" to themselves. It's how the world goes 'round. Illiquid and crappy may be the same thing now, yes, but investment is, by definition, making decisions for future profit. This is why, in terms of net present value, crappy and illiquid are not the same thing. JP Morgan is thinking "This is a great opportunity".
In terms to my reference to LTCM as being hardly reassuring: get over it. We are in a credit crunch. We were in '98, we are now. It's bad, yes. This is probably worse than LTCM. I never said this was good, I said that 'illiquid' and 'crappy' are not by definition the same thing. That's all I said.
I'm not even going to address your Buick analogy. Read this book - http://www.amazon.com/When-Genius-Failed-Long-Term-Managemen... - it will give you a good idea how credit markets operate and how they can act irrationally.
Right now the major issue is that no one knows how to value themselves because no one else knows how to value themselves because no one can value their portfolios. And in that uncertainty no one can judge who is right and wrong, who is getting a good deal and getting a bad deal. This is exactly why this situation is so screwed up. And this is exactly why the Fed is offering to provide liquidity for the rest of the market: because no one else is liquid enough to. Yes, it is a moral hazard, it sucks, but it is how it is.
Look, this isn't a zero sum game. For all we know, inaction by the Fed could lead us down a more damaging path. There are smart people working there, with far more education and experience than both of us and then some. Let us not be so quick to judge.
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