Game Over?

London, UK - 27th November 2010, 17:55 GMT

Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends

[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

We are grateful to Mark Lapolla, global investment strategist at Knight Capital, which executes more trades than any other US firm, for his response to the ATCA briefing, "What could trigger the next financial crisis?" Thomas Joyce, Chairman and CEO of Knight Capital Group, is a long standing distinguished member of the ATCA 5000. Mr Lapolla writes:"

Game Over?

The Game is Over

The simple story is this: We believe the structural and cyclical terms of global trade have finally reached their tipping point. This will catalyze a wholesale change in sentiment and a historic repositioning of risk assets. The emerging market global growth story is over.

In meetings with strategic allies and clients throughout October, we began emphasizing our growing concerns about the nearly ubiquitous confidence the financial markets -- and for that matter, global leaders and their body politic -- have in China; and by extension, the rest of the emerging market story, commodities, and the long-term direction of foreign exchange cross-rates.

Not surprisingly, our concerns were met with varying degrees of resistance; but the overall consensus clearly favoured a very bullish, asymmetric outcome over both the near and intermediate terms. When pressed as to our own sense of timing and specific catalysts for broad-based trend reversal, candidly we were unclear. Our sense then was that the higher and faster the commodity markets pushed, the sooner the reversal would occur. But we have now clarified our view.

In just the past several weeks, we believe the data and government action out of China, the back-up in US interest rates, intensifying pressures across the EU, broadly rising commodity prices, intensifying efforts to control hot money flows, and the market’s strengthening belief that somehow China and the United States would be able to engineer and a currency re-alignment without breaking the global growth story, have finally pushed the global terms of trade to their tipping point.

And now, as is evident by the flight to safety, and growing evidence that China will soon try and effect price controls in addition to raising interest rates and significantly changing the rules for their vast network of TLGVs, the writing is on the wall. The game is over.

The simple story is this: We believe both the structural and cyclical terms of global trade have reached their tipping point which will effect a wholesale change in sentiment and a historic repositioning of risk assets.

So what do we consider the “terms of global trade”?

Structurally, they are the intersection of:

A. Government Policy (rule of law, market systems, trade law, etc);
B. Resource and Industry (natural resources, labor/demographic pools, industrial advantages, import dependencies, etc); and
C. Economic Security (sovereign’s competitive standing, the relative power/needs of the citizenry, the mandate/control of the government, etc.)

And cyclically, the terms of trade are defined by the intersection of foreign exchange rates, commodity prices, and the cost and availability of trade finance. And in our assessment given:

1. The structural breakdown of the credit and labour markets in the developed world and the anaemic outlook for nominal GDP growth;
2. The immaturity of the developing world and their vulnerability to credit shocks and uncontrollable inflation;
3. China’s dependence upon non-economic, and unsustainable credit expansion to maintain growth far beyond natural export and domestic demand; and
4. Asia’s dependence upon imported energy and agriculture:

the game is over!

Presently, we believe that the broad-based resurgence of investor confidence in the emerging market and secular bull market in commodities will end badly; proving that the rally which commenced in Q2 2009, was in fact an “echo bubble” facilitated by massive -- and unsustainable -- stimuli from the Chinese Government.

And although such cataclysmic shocks rarely result in rhythmic, straight line fractures, the chain of price adjustments should be relatively clear. Accordingly, we expect a shockingly powerful rally in the dollar, broad-based weakness across the commodity sector, a dramatic widening of emerging market credit spreads, and what could prove to be a stampede of hot fund flows out of the emerging markets.

We appreciate both the gravity and the brevity of this note; but then again, the story is simple!



Mark Lapolla is Managing Director at Knight Equity Capital Markets. Mark Lapolla joined Knight with the acquisition of Sixth Man Research, which he founded in 2007. Mr Lapolla brings years of experience on both the Buy and Sell Side and has established mindshare with high profile institutional fund managers worldwide. At Sixth Man Research, he created a distinctive approach to analyzing emerging market trends and imbalances regardless of asset class or geography while serving some of the world’s largest mutual funds, hedge funds and commercial banks. Prior to Sixth Man Research, he started Petros Capital, a long-short equity hedge fund that primarily served university endowments and charitable foundations. Before Petros Capital, he was with Friess Associates, managers of the Brandywine Funds, in which assets under management grew from $2.2 billion to $15 billion during his tenure. He was also responsible for managing $1.5 billion directly, as well as overseeing the fund’s largest positions which aggregated another $5 billion. In 1990, he began managing money as an analyst covering technology and retail stocks. Mr Lapolla launched his career in 1983 as an equity trader at Goldman Sachs and has held various trading positions at leading sell-side firms. He graduated from the College of William & Mary in 1983 with a BA in Economics.


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Best wishes

ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to resolve complex global challenges through collective Socratic dialogue and joint executive action to build a wisdom based global economy. Adhering to the doctrine of non-violence, ATCA addresses asymmetric threats and social opportunities arising from climate chaos and the environment; radical poverty and microfinance; geo-politics and energy; organised crime & extremism; advanced technologies -- bio, info, nano, robo & AI; demographic skews and resource shortages; pandemics; financial systems and systemic risk; as well as transhumanism and ethics. Present membership of ATCA is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members from over 120 countries: including 1,000 Parliamentarians; 1,500 Chairmen and CEOs of corporations; 1,000 Heads of NGOs; 750 Directors at Academic Centres of Excellence; 500 Inventors and Original thinkers; as well as 250 Editors-in-Chief of major media.

The Philanthropia, founded in 2005, brings together over 1,000 leading individual and private philanthropists, family offices, foundations, private banks, non-governmental organisations and specialist advisors to address complex global challenges such as countering climate chaos, reducing radical poverty and developing global leadership for the younger generation through the appliance of science and technology, leveraging acumen and finance, as well as encouraging collaboration with a strong commitment to ethics. Philanthropia emphasises multi-faith spiritual values: introspection, healthy living and ecology. Philanthropia Targets: Countering climate chaos and carbon neutrality; Eliminating radical poverty -- through micro-credit schemes, empowerment of women and more responsible capitalism; Leadership for the Younger Generation; and Corporate and social responsibility.

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