"There is nothing new under the sun," Ecclesiastes wrote. For the most part, the pseudonymous biblical poet was right on the money.
The credit market, for instance, has existed in one form or another since 3,000 BCE or thereabouts – around 5,000 years.
At the dawn of human civilization, the Mesopotamian economy featured interest rates as high as 20%. And by the time Cyrus II of Persia ("Cyrus the Great" to his friends) conquered Babylon in the sixth century BCE, creditors could often reap a positively mouthwatering 40%.
Ah, the good old days…
Unfortunately (and with apologies to Ecclesiastes), there is something very new and very dangerous under the sun these days.
A frenzy of capital destruction – the end result is functionally no different than gathering up all your money, dousing it with gasoline, and setting it alight.
It's unprecedented; it has never happened before, in all of the five millennia that tribal chieftains, warlords, monarchies, principalities, Westphalian nation-states, and multinational corporations have been buying and selling debt.
I'm talking about negative yield.
If that sounds unnatural… perverse…. even insane… well, that's because it is. And not much good can come out of it.
About the Author
25-year run as a hedge fund portfolio manager, family office chief investment officer, managing director and general counsel. Internationally recognized expert in credit and equity markets as well as macro risk management.