Global Investing

from MacroScope:

The end of capitalism

Hard to imagine with financial markets still buoyant and newspapers full of tales of bonus greed, but there is still the possibility that captialism will end.  At least there is according to prestigious investment consultants Watson Wyatt in their latest study called "Extreme Risks".

The firm listed the demise of the system of private ownership as one of 15 threats to investors and the global economy that probably won't happen but which it reckons are worth worrying about anyway. The idea behind the report is that such things as climate change, the break up of the euro zone and war are always worth being included in an investment risk management process.

As for the future of capitalism:

In our view, the most likely scenario is moving along from one end of a spectrum where market is king (minimum regulation) towards the other end, where we could see more onerous regulations and government intervention in, and control of, the economy. The extreme risk, however, is the demise of the capitalist system and the end of the market as the primary means of resource allocation.

And the impact:

The economy would be likely to run a higher risk of failure and economic growth would be sluggish in the long run due to lower productivity.  Centrally controlled economies tend to be characterised by shortages, which are inherently inflationary. Private investment activities would collapse or even be terminated. The end of capitalism is simply the ultimate extreme risk. The economy is likely to be associated with extreme uncertainty and a large amount of wealth destruction during the transition period.

Watson Wyatt does try to give its free market clients some hope, suggesting that buying gold may be one way to hedge against the propect of capitalism's demise. But it admitted that in such a circumstance investors would probably be more concerned about the return of their investments rather that the return on them.

Calpers’ appetite for risk

Claudia Parsons of Reuters and Calpers Chief Investment Officer Joe Dear discuss the pension fund’s appetite for risk on CNBC, after a Reuters investigation into how Calpers is delving further into alternative investments despite suffering heavy losses.

More on Calpers:

What a web we’ve woven

Thanks are due to the World Economic Forum for clearly  explaining the interlinked web of misery currently facing the world.  Make what you will of the details in the graphic below – and if you can, please do let us know! — but the overall impact really does spell it all out.

This Vonnegutesque cat’s cradle, incidently, comes from the forum’s new report, Global Risks 2009, released ahead of its annual meeting in Davos between January 28 and February 1. It shows an interlinked world facing a monumental series of interlinked risk, some of which  investors are having to confront for the first time.  Sheana Tambourgi, head of WEF’s global risk network, explains the report in this video:

 

The Wrong Lesson

 

Investors learned the wrong lesson from the dotcom bubble, and ended up blowing another. 

 

That’s the view put forward at the CFA Institute’s conference in Amsterdam by Ben Inker, head of asset allocation at GMO. He believes investors became so enamoured of diversification – which seemed to work like a charm for the large US university endowment schemes – that they ran headlong into risk asset classes and blew a giant risk bubble. 

 

Inker argues that because investors rushed into risk asset classes indiscriminately, they ended up paying for the privilege of taking risk.