Monday, June 14, 2010

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Lewis's book provides a fascinating insight into the minds and mischief of the characters shorting the sub-prime mortgage market during the US real estate bust and general GFC calamity.

I found the unintentional insights into herd behaviour eye opening. The players shorting the market almost couldn’t believe that the price to insure sub-prime mortgage backed securities was so low when by their analysis, they carried so much risk. They spent an achingly long time trying to figure out if there was some critical piece of information missing from their analysis. If there was, it might explain the apparently irrational behaviour of the counterparty to the bets.  But the more they searched, the more they realised that it was a simple matter of ignorance that kept the sub-prime security holders in the game.

It took a strong will to bet such grand sums against the markets, and for those behavioural economists looking for insights into our predictable irrationality this book offers a thorough exploration of the personality differences amongst the characters in this ill-fated market.

1 comment:

  1. Well I know all about herd behaviour and my eyes have been open to that for quite some time. Even over the past few years this is what the herd hears.

    "We need to create jobs". "Yea", crowd goes wild.

    "We need to bring more immigrants in to fill the jobs we've created". "Yea", crowd goes wild.

    "We need to build more houses" "Yea", crowd goes wild.

    "We need to create more jobs for the immigrants we've brought in" "Yea", crowd goes wild.

    "We need to build more houses" "Yea", crowd goes wild.

    "We need bring in more immigrants to build the houses we need for the extra immigrants we brought in" "Yea", crowd goes wild.

    Aahh yes the herded crowd.

    Further I've never heard of a court case where one is suing another for making money at the 'markets, but look out for the stampede of Lawyers when there's a crash.