Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Spanish CDS Spreads Surpass Iceland

In Financial Markets, Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, National Economic Politics, Views, commentaries and opinions on 27.11.10 at 04:53

This was unthinkable only a year ago: Iceland‘s sovereign CDS spread being closer to the German benchmark than the Spanish. This means that the credit market believes that it’s safer to lend money to a bankrupt little community out in the North Sea rather than to the ninth largest economy in the world.

“The problem is that Greece, Ireland and Iceland all said the same thing shortly before they were forced to receive help.”

Gavan Nolan

This is an apple!

The Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe hit 190 basis points for the first time, Friday. Spain and Portugal hit record wide of 325 and 515 bp’s respectively. Ireland’s bailout last weekend has caused the credit markets to hone in on the other likely candidates for financial distress; Portugal and Spain.

“Ireland and Iceland have been compared often in the last two years. The two island nations in the North Atlantic are emblematic of the excessive financial debt that precipitated the global recession,” credit analyst Gavan Nolan points out in Markit Credit Wrap.

A recent blog post by Paul Krugman highlights Iceland’s strong performance relative to Ireland since 2009, which he attributed to the Nordic country’s “heterodox” economic policies: capital controls, a large devaluation and considerable debt restructuring.

“The CDS market reflects this view – Iceland’s spreads are trading at half Ireland’s level. Even Spain is now wider than Iceland, a scenario that would have seemed far-fetched at the beginning of this year,” Nolan writes.

Adding: “The dire fiscal state of the eurozone’s peripheral economies is well-established. But the last week has seen the situation deteriorate, with sovereign spreads reaching unprecedented levels today.”

Both Portugal and Spain were forced to issue denials that they needed external support today.

Portuguese government spokesman says that reports of fellow EU members pressurizing Portugal into accepting a bailout are “totally false”, Financial Times report, The passing of the government’s austerity budget – a major point of contention with the opposition parties – did little to relieve the pressure on the sovereign’s spreads.

Meanwhile, Spain did also issuing robust denials of bailout rumours. The country’s prime minister Jose Zapatero says  there is “absolutely” no need for a rescue.

“The problem for both countries is that Greece, Ireland and Iceland all said the same thing shortly before they were forced to receive help. Investors are all too aware of the credibility issue, and this is reflected in sovereign spreads,” Gavan Nolan writes.

More details of a bailout that is definitely happening, that of Ireland, are expected over the weekend.

A report in the Irish Times today that revealed the timetable caused bank spreads to widen sharply.

The report indicated that the EU-IMF mission in Dublin is looking at ways of making senior debt holders share the burden of the bailout, i.e. taking haircuts.

“A fear of such a measure has been bubbling under in the markets for some time now, particularly after the Anglo-Irish Bank debt exchange “offer” was first announced. If does come to fruition then it will be a significant moment in the recent history of financial market,” Nolan notes.

“Senior bondholders will no longer be considered untouchable, and this will inevitably have an effect on bank borrowing costs. On the other hand, if there is no mention of such a measure then it could cause spreads to snap back,” he concludes.


In other words – it’s gonna be another interesting Monday…


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A Hompage For The Homeless

In Financial Engeneering, Health and Environment, High Frequency Trading, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, Learning, Natural science, Philosophy, Technology, Views, commentaries and opinions on 27.11.10 at 03:46

You’re hereby warned: over the next weekend will thousands of hackers gather in cities around the globe to test out their latest tools and perhaps come up with some new ones. They are invited by Google, Microsoft, NASA, Yahoo! and The World Bank.

“It is an opportunity to meet and work with top software developers and disaster experts, to create and improve open source applications that enable communities to recover from disasters.”

Google Code Blog

My New Desktop

What! I had to read it twice. It turns out the three rulers of the internet, together with NASA and The World Bank, is inviting software developers, private hackers and students to participate in an event called “Random Hacks of Kindness,” (RHoK) to create some kind of disaster recovery application.

If you too have trouble believing your own eyes, here’s the link to the blog post at Google Code Blog.

Come Hack for Humanity! the Google-guy writes.

And leaves me with more questions than a European Stability Mechanism.

First: What disaster is he talking about?

In fact, according to the blog post, this is the third time, these four institutions invite hackers to this kind of event. The first one took place in November last year and the second in June this summer.

Google Code Blog writes:

“RHoK brings together volunteer programmers and experts in disaster response for a two-day hackathon to create software solutions that focus on problems related to disaster risk and response. It is an opportunity to meet and work with top software developers and disaster experts, to create and improve open source applications that enable communities to recover from disasters, and to possibly win prizes.”

The winner in 2009 was a mobile phone application that enables you to send out a “broad” message (email, SMS, Facebook, etc.) to as many people as you want, by just pressing one single button.

Earlier this year the friendly hacker prize was awarded a prediction model (algorithm), that outputs visualization, interpretation and identification of landslide risk reduction measures.

Well, that’s all mighty fine. But still; why just disaster applications?

And why do Microsoft, Google – and NASA (!) – need to call on amateurs and private hackers? Isn’t these companies supposed to have some of the best computer experts available in this part of the world on their payrolls?

Will All The Chinese Raise Their Hands, Please?

RHOK will be held simultaneously in many locations around the world on December 4 and 5.

The five main stages will be in Chicago, Sao Paolo, Aarhus, Nairobi and Bangalore; and there will be over a dozen satellite events in other global cities.

The satellite connections will be set up here:

New York, New York, U.S.A
Lusaka, Zambia
Berlin, Germany
Toronto, Canada
Bogota, Colombia
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.
Jakarta, Indonesia
Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Birmingham, U.K.
Tel Aviv, Israel (Dec. 3rd/4th)
Mexico City, Mexico
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Juarez, Mexico
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. (Dec. 5 only)

(More info about the “Random Hacks of Kindness” here)

I also wonder who really turns up at these events. I strongly doubt that the most creative, sophisticated and competent private hackers will register, sign in and log on to this special purpose system just for the sake of humanity.

You’ve probably noticed that besides Indonesia and Singapore, there is no Asian participation.

Hack - The definition

I could go on asking stupid questions for a page or three more, but I probably wouldn’t get any answers anyway.

However, an old saying from back in the 60’s comes to mind:

“Fighting for freedom is like fucking for virginity”

In this case I think the following re-write is suitable:

“Hacks for humanity is like a homepage for the homeless”


Portugal Ordered To Apply For EU Bailout

In Financial Markets, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, National Economic Politics, Philosophy, Views, commentaries and opinions on 26.11.10 at 19:14

Portugal has been told to apply for a rescue from EU’s bailout fund (ESFE) so that Spain won’t be sucked into the black hole of sovereign debt, according to German media reports. Spain is seen as a more “systemically important” country than both Portugal and Ireland. Yesterday there was rumors saying that the European bailout fund don’t have enough money to bail out Spain if it comes to that.

“There is zero danger.”

Klaus Regling

The European Central Bank and a majority of member states in the euro zone are putting heavy pressure on the narrow Iberian nation to be the third country to tap the European Financial Stability Facility, according to a report based on unnamed sources in the Financial Times Deutschland.

European leaders and a number of analysts fear that should if Portugal should default, Spain would be dragged down with it.

While the debts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal are thought to so far be manageable, Spain would empty the euro zone’s emergency piggy bank, the writes.

Lisbon is being told that if it applies to the facility, this would ease pressures on Spanish borrowing costs.

“If Portugal were to use the fund, it would be good for Spain, because the country is heavily exposed to Portugal,” the FT Deutschland’s source says.

The country’s borrowing costs climbed to near record highs on Thursday, with yields loitering around seven percent for 10-year bonds, while Spain’s 10-year bond yields climbed to a record 5.2 percent.

Meanwhile, according to Die Welt, the European Commission is trying to convince partners that the €440 billion EFSF needs to be double its funding – a proposal immediately rejected by EU’s paymaster, Germany.

Brussels however denies the report.

Axel Weber, German representative on the ECB board and head of the Bundesbank, says the existing total rescue sum – including €250 from the IMF and another €60 from the EU directly, should be sufficient, but that if not, more guarantees could be found.(printed).

“This should be more than enough to counter attacks on the euro zone. If it’s not enough, then one will have to increase this commitment,” Weber said.

However, other EU leaders are insisting on the fact that there is no existential threat to the euro, as suggested by some analysts.

Luxembourg Prime MInister Jean-Claude Juncker, (chairman of the group of states that use the euro), says he do not fear for the single currency.

And EFSF chief Klaus Regling says to German Daily Bild: “No country will give up the euro of its own will: for weaker countries that would be economic suicide, likewise for the stronger countries. And politically, Europe would only have half the value without the euro.”

“There is zero danger. It is inconceivable that the euro fails.”

I guess time will tell…

Related by The Swapper:

UK And France Want Ban On High Frequency Trading

In Financial Engeneering, Financial Markets, High Frequency Trading, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, National Economic Politics, Philosophy, Quantitative Finance, Technology, Trading software, Views, commentaries and opinions on 26.11.10 at 18:31

Britain and France is planning a crackdown on ultra-fast stock trading that they belive caused the so-called “flash crash” in the US stock market on May 6th this year, alarming both regulators and global investors, report.  Jepp, here we go again. Why don’t we just forbid the whole internet and get it over with…and don’t forget the cell phones!

“My natural tendency would be at least to regulate, to oversee it very strictly and after a cost-benefit analysis of these methods, maybe to forbid it.”

Christine Lagarde

They have the Internet on computers, now?!


French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde says the form of computerized trading, known as high-frequency trading (HFT), may need banning in some cases. She’s being backed up by the UK Financial Authorities.

“My natural tendency would be at least to regulate, to oversee it very strictly and after a cost-benefit analysis of these methods, maybe to forbid it,” Lagarde said at a parliamentary commission hearing on financial speculation. Reuters.

“Or at least give market authorities the power to forbid it in circumstances that are considered exceptional,” she added.

Britain, Europe’s biggest stock market, where HFT accounts for about a third of trading on the London Stock Exchange, also signals tougher rules were needed – but emphasise that the rules must be proportionate and targeted.

“HFT was simply the evolution of trading to a much faster pace due to advances in technology,” Alexander Justham, director of markets at the UK’s Financial Services Authority, told a TradeTech 2010 markets industry conference.

Adding: “We are not here to turn the clock back.”

Computerized trading and methods such as algorithmic trading transacts a huge number of shares in microsecond.

“If you drive so fast, the technology should be that you can break as fast as well,” Justham says.

Justham also says, according to Reuters, that HFT has narrowed bid/offer spreads,  but the jury was out on whether it has led to more efficient trading or whether it has created unfair advantages in trading.

Arguing that there’s a key differences between the US and European stock markets, such as controls on who can trade, and the availability of so-called “circuit breakers” to stop the most brutal moves.

“We are absolutely not complacent about the general risk of what all this means. Has the playing field been tilted?” Justham asks.

Well, in this bloggers view it’s the authorities that’s been tilted.

And just to be completely precise: I do definitely see the problems related to high frequency trading. Especially the fact that some market participants are able to get sensitive information before anyone else in the market does, and that’s just plain unfair. However, it’s the exchanges themself who offer this service to selected customers.

So, in my view the regulators should start by regulating themself before they impose yet another set of rules on the investors.

Anyway – Bank of France governor, Christian Noyer, said about the same in front of a French parliamentary panel on Wednesday evening,  that HFT was a real problem.

“I would only see advantages if it was scrutinized as much as possible,” Noyer said.

Read the full story at

Related by The Swapper:

Hackers Attack Norwegian Government – Again

In Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, National Economic Politics, Technology on 26.11.10 at 15:35

This week the Norwegian government have been under a severe hacker attack. The National Security authorities have raised the threat level to 3 – the highest since the Stuxnet attack against Norwegian oil installations and other crucial systems in June this year.

“The police are aware of vulnerabilities in PDF readers that’s  been exploited for hacking.”

Espen Strai

Norwegian Security Authorities

The Norwegian governments building in Oslo have this week been hit by the most serious hacker attack so far this year, Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reports. This attack has been possible because the ministers and their staff still hasn’t updated their PDF software.

According to the norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, National Security Authorities discovered a flow of infected PDF files coming in through the governments email system, passing the firewall without any trouble.

The serious attack was kept a secret until the newspaper got hold of an internal note to the security personnel at the government building, warning against the hole in their security systems.

The National Security authorities (NSM) are still working on the case, trying to patch the holes and see if they can trace the perpetrators.

The attacks this week have led the NSM to raise the national threat level to level 3 – the highest since the Norwegian oil companies, utilities and other vital social structures were attacked by the dangerous Stuxnet worm earlier this summer.

NSM and the Norwegian government has kept this last attack a secret from the public. The reason is that they’re still working to resolve the problem,  and investigate who is behind, whether they are hackers, computer criminals or foreign intelligence, writes.

Hackers and computer criminals have discovered that the ministers and their staff have done a classic amateur mistake – they have failed to update the computer program Adobe Reader, which is used to read PDF files.

That makes the government buildings an easy and tempting target.

Using a computer virus, a so-called “Trojan,” which uses known vulnerabilities in Adobe, the hackers tried to install software that would give them full access to the computers.

Every day more than 5 million emails passes through the governments firewalls that’s supposed to protect highly sensitive data, government notes and classified information, which can cause both individuals and Norwegian security concerns very much damage.

The Office of the Auditor General of Norway has previously criticized prime minister Jens Stoltenberg and his government for the very poor data security and, among other things, using old software.

Ministry of Government Administration and Church Secretary Rigmor Aasrud says that the government has implemented several measures.

“We can not comment on the different security ratings by NSM. However, we’re continuously assessing the measures that are necessary. We expect people to be vigilant and careful with what you do,” says communications manager Frode Jacobsen Minister of Government Administration and Reform.

“The police are aware of vulnerabilities in PDF readers have been exploited for hacking. We follow the situation around this carefully,” says communications director Espen Strai at the National Police Computing and Material Service.

Norwegian police have now taken steps to update the governments applications so that most attacks are stopped, is told.

Related by The Swapper:

British MEP To Parliament: “Just Who The Hell Do You Think You Are? You Are Very Dangerous People!”

In Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, National Economic Politics, Views, commentaries and opinions on 26.11.10 at 04:18

Famous euroskeptic Nigel Farage manage to in just under four brief minutes tells more truth about the entire European economic experiment than all European bankers, commissioners, and politicians have done in the past decade. Farage is known for his unique and politically incorrect way of addressing the Parliament. But still, its like some kind of relief every time he blows his top off…

“You are very, very dangerous people indeed: your obsession with creating this European state means that you are happy to destroy democracy, you appear to be happy with millions and millions of people to be unemployed and to be poor.”

Nigel Farage

“Good morning Mr. van Rompuy, you’ve been in office for one year, and in that time the whole edifice is beginning to crumble, there’s chaos, the money’s running out, I should thank you – you should perhaps be the pin-up boy of the euroskeptic movement. But just look around this chamber this morning, look at these faces, look at the fear, look at the anger. Poor Barroso here looks like he’s seen a ghost.”

British MEP Nigel Farage had another go at the European top leaders in Brussels Thursday.

Farage is well-known for his critical view on the European Union, and perhaps even more famous for his unparliamentary style.

This is not the first time he’s launched a full-blown verbal attack on the top EU politicians.

(See related posts).

However, Thursday’s power speech may have earned its place in the history books:

“They’re beginning to understand that the game is up. And yet in their desperation to preserve their dream, they want to remove any remaining traces of democracy from the system. And it’s pretty clear that none of you have learned anything.”

“When you yourself Mr. van Rompuy say that the euro has brought us stability, I supposed I could applaud you for having a sense of humor, but isn’t this really just the banker mentality? Your fanaticism is out in the open. You talk about the fact that it was a lie to believe that the nation-state could exist in the 21st century globalized world.”

“Well, that may be true in the case of Belgium who haven’t had a government for 6 months, but for the rest of us, right across every member state in this union, increasingly people are saying, “We don’t want that flag, we don’t want the anthem, we don’t want this political class, we want the whole thing consigned to the dustbin of history.”

“We had the Greek tragedy earlier on this year, and now we have the situation in Ireland. I know that the stupidity and greed of Irish politicians has a lot to do with this: they should never, ever have joined the euro. They suffered with low-interest rates, a false boom and a massive bust. But look at your response to them: what they are being told as their government is collapsing is that it would be inappropriate for them to have a general election.”

“In fact commissioner Rehn here said they had to agree to a budget first before they are allowed to have a general election. Just who the hell do you think you people are. You are very, very dangerous people indeed: your obsession with creating this European state means that you are happy to destroy democracy, you appear to be happy with millions and millions of people to be unemployed and to be poor.”

“Untold millions will suffer so that your euro dream can continue. Well it won’t work, cause its Portugal next with their debt levels of 325% of GDP they are the next ones on the list, and after that I suspect it will be Spain, and the bailout for Spain will be 7 times the size of Ireland, and at that moment all the bailout money will is gone – there won’t be any more. But it’s even more serious than economics, because if you rob people of their identity, if you rob them of their democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the euro project is destroyed by the markets before that really happens.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.



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So, Will We See QE3 In 2011?

In Financial Markets, Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, National Economic Politics, Quantitative Finance, Views, commentaries and opinions on 26.11.10 at 04:04

The turmoil in the market for sovereign bond is now clearly spilling over to the corporate sector, and particularly into the financial industry. The banks perceived by investors as the weakest, are getting their insurance premiums kicked up by a substantial amount of bp’s, that in turn raises the banks funding costs, and not every bank in Europe has a wealthy tipple-A government to back them up. According to the German Die Welt Online is the EU commission ready to double the EUR750 billion bailout fund that was established earlier this year. I think I see the QE3 on the horizon.

“This topic is one to watch over the coming days.”

Gavan Nolan

Given the recent turmoil with Ireland, Portugal and Spain, several EU leaders are now considering a significant increase of the euro zone’s 750 billion euro rescue fund. According to Die Welt Online Thursday, the EU commission have already suggested to double the fund. The German government, the ECB  and the Bundesbank have spent the day trying to put out the fire.

Die Welt also writes that Germany –  the economically strongest member of the European community – is rejecting the plans, at least the time being.

After the Irish bailout, the focus is now mainly on Portugal and Spain.

Both countries are under heavy financial pressure these days as their CDS spreads just keep getting wider. This has led investors to doubt that the 750 euro bailout mechanism – The European Financial Stability Fund – that was rushed through the EU parliament earlier this year will be enough to cover even Spain alone if they should ask for help.

In response to questions in Paris Thursday president Alex Weber of the German Bundesbank said: “If the amount is not enough, we can increase it.” Adding: “An attack on the euro has no chance of success.”

I can’t help wondering who these evil attackers of the euro is? The Chinese?

Mr. Weber’s statement might also be interpreted as another way of saying: “We’ll print as much money as we need.”

Die Welt reports that the rest of the fund – assumingly 440 billion euro – could be claimed in the coming months by other countries in the euro area.

Spanish banks have been among the worst performers in recent weeks amid fears over the sovereign’s strength.

“The Markit iTraxx Europe is now 8.5 wider since this time last week and has returned to the levels seen at the beginning of October. Considerable widening in bank spreads, driven by sovereign credit deterioration and talk of burden sharing, has played a major part in the index losing ground,” credit analyst Gavan Nolan writes in Thursday’s Markit Intraday Alert.

Given the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, it was no surprise to see this trend continue today.

Sovereigns were buffeted by headline risk – no change there.

Brian Lenihan, Ireland’s finance minister, insisted that the crucial December budget would be passed by parliament. But the coalition government’s slender majority is expected to be reduced by one if it loses a by-election today, as predicted by the polls. And Enda Kenny, leader of the opposition party Fine Gael, pledged today that he would not be bound by the recent austerity programme.

“Ireland received another blow when LCH Clearnet announced that it would be increasing its margin requirement on the sovereign’s bonds from 30% to 45%, the third rise such rise in as many weeks,” Nolan notes.

Ireland’s spreads widened beyond 600 bp’s Thursday, before recovering later in the session.

German officials, perhaps mindful of their perceived role in exacerbating the current crisis, had a very busy day, trying hard to support the alleged economic recovery.

Angela Merkel stressed that the existing European Financial Stability Fund would not be changed before it expires in 2013.

“German ambiguity around this issue has contributed to the recent widening,” Gavan Nolan at Markit points out.

“There have been rumours that the EFSF would be increased in size, and this topic is one to watch over the coming days,” he concludes.


  • Markit iTraxx Europe 107.5bp (+0.5), Markit iTraxx Crossover 483bp (+1)
  • Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe 180bp (0)
  • Markit iTraxx Senior Financials 157bp (0)
  • Sovereigns – Greece 950bp (-22), Spain 301bp (+1), Portugal 480bp (-2), Italy 204bp (+2), Ireland 585bp (+4), Belgium 151bp (+2)


The Fear Is Still Out There

In Financial Markets, International Econnomic Politics, National Economic Politics, Views, commentaries and opinions on 25.11.10 at 12:25

There’s a lot of things to be said about fear; fear in general and fear as a driving force in the financial markets. Some say the fear is the only driving force in the market – the fear of losing money and the fear of underperforming ones competitors. The first kind should restrain investors from taking too much risk, the other should (in theory) increase their risk appetite. In other words; fear amongst market participants is really a good thing. But the central banks have in reality more or less eliminated the risk element with its quantitative easing policy. So, why is fear still an issue?

“Spreads opened wider this morning, with Ireland and the threat of contagion across the euro zone’s periphery continuing to incite risk aversion.”

Gavan Nolan

The Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe index hit 187 basis points, Wednesday, another all-time-wide, as investors are said to fear the contagion of debt problems from one country to another.  Credit markets recovered in the afternoon after a shaky start, but the ongoing peripheral concerns ensured that they underperformed their counterparts in equities.

CDS spreads opened wider Wednesday  morning, driven by Portugal and Spain, with Ireland and the threat of contagion across the euro zone’s periphery continuing to incite risk aversion, according to Markit Financial Information Service.

Ireland’s rating was downgraded two notches to A from AA- by S&P’s Tueasday evening, the agency citing the rising cost of bailing out the country’s banking system.

Ireland’s spreads have been trading in junk territory for some time but the downgrade only added to the negative sentiment, credit analyst Gavan Nolan at Markit Credit Research writes in Wednesday’s Intraday Alert.

The government’s “National Recovery Plan”, a four-year plan inflicting yet more austerity on the Irish people, was unveiled today. It amounts to a EUR15 billion fiscal tightening; EUR10 billion in spending cuts and EUR5 billion in tax hikes.

“But whatever the merits of this policy – and many doubt its efficacy and its optimistic growth assumptions – there is considerable uncertainty over whether it will be implemented at all. The government’s position is precarious and it will have difficulty getting the necessary votes to pass the December 7 budget,” Nolan points out.

The Irish CDS’ are now trading with spreads around 590 bp’s, similar to pre-bailout levels.

“Contagion was still the buzzword today and this was reflected in sovereign spreads this morning,” Markit’s analyst notes.

The Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe index hit 187bp, an all-time record, driven by Portugal and Spain.

The Iberian countries are viewed by the markets as being the next most vulnerable to a debt crisis. However, they recovered later in the day, but remain at unpleasant high levels.

And financials continued to underperform amid sovereign volatility and concerns over burden sharing – or the possibility of being bailed in, instead of out.

I guess that’s where the real fear is…

Anglo Irish Bank’s debt exchange was deemed a restructuring credit event by the ISDA DC today, and a credit event auction will follow in the coming weeks.

“Risky assets enjoyed a stronger afternoon, helped by a plethora of economic data,” Gavan Nolan writes pointing to the US weekly jobless claims that came in better than expected, as did UofM consumer confidence.

New homes sales and durable goods figures were less impressive but investors were ready to put them aside ahead of Thursday’s US holiday.

“With US news likely to be minimal over the rest of the week, events in the euro zone should shape spread direction on probable low volumes,” Gavan Nolan concludes.

When it comes to fear in general, the wise men says it’s all in the mind, and that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.

Obviously, most investors thinks that’s all just bull-shit.