The Pained Trader: going nuclear

The Pained Trader sees little point in betting on the end of the world.

  • By The Pained Trader
  • 07 Sep 2017
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Trump_PT_0907One of life’s delicious ironies is that when you do anything for the last time, at that moment you are probably unaware it is the last time. The realisation and attendant regret come later. 

I contemplated that truism earlier this week when, in the opening sentence of my morning bulletin to clients, I found myself typing the following: “Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa committed adultery with a doctor from Limpopo.” 

It sounded like the first line to a novel by Graham Greene, but was actually just another reminder to investors, as if they needed one, of the pitfalls inherent in emerging markets, particularly amid the cut-throat politics of South Africa, where such imbecilic headlines can make a mockery of any portfolio strategy.

Of late, I have become obsessed with my sales trading mortality and my legacy. 

What if that were the final missive I ever despatched to my marble-hearted, utterly indifferent customer base? What kind of lapidary sign-off would, “Earthquake in Turkey – not many dead” make? Would that be my epitaph, lingering in cyberspace long after the tap on the shoulder from HR and the bundling out of the back door 10 minutes later by security? If it were so then no one could claim of me that, “Nothing became him in his career like the ending of it”.


A special way of being afraid

I’ve only been at Salvation Bank for two months and already I’m telescoping my Quietus and fretting about what I leave behind me after almost 30 years in the business. I love Philip Larkin, but I’m afraid what will survive of us, or me at least, is nothing.

There will be no Tomb Of The Unknown Broker, no candle burning eternally in a trading floor window. It will be like I was never here. And if you looked at my commission run for the last month, that also implies I was never here.

Perhaps the recent threat of mutual annihilation by North Korea and the US is what makes me think this way. Rarely a morning passes without news overnight of that roly-poly, stubby-fingered, comically coiffured, potato-faced autocrat threatening nuclear Armageddon, and sometimes Kim Jong-un does it too, but at least his English and spelling are better.

Markets have, of course, taken fright and sought safe-haven assets but this seems irrational to me. There is no point betting on the end of the world — and despite the bluff even eschatologists don’t — because it doesn’t come around very often and if the clown with the long tie manages to provoke North Korea’s toy tyrant into taping a nuclear warhead onto an intercontinental ballistic missile and vapourising us all, then then we shall all have a lot more to worry about than our share and bond portfolios.

One thing for sure, though, is that the morning after the blast when we all come crawling out of our bunkers, Melania Trump (or ‘Flotus’ as she likes to call herself, seemingly unaware of the acronym’s connotations) will be dressed for the part in nuclear chic.

She had some practice for the end of the world with her postdiluvian trip to Houston and the outfit she chose to survey the disaster must have given succour to anyone whose home was deluged or belongings swept away in the floods. She was packing a Top Gun bomber jacket, six-inch stilettoes and even more incongruously, a pair of aviator sunglasses as though a hurricane would be characterised by bright sunshine.

This came just a couple of days after Trump looked directly into the eclipse without any shades and made me wonder if the thrasonic American president would not benefit from a little coterie of gnathonic advisers like those who surround Kim Jong-un with their notepads always to hand, ready to take down any bonsmots or observations about nuclear physics the fat fool may happen to make. Surely one would counsel putting shades on to stare directly into the sun and taking them off in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Rather surprisingly given his track record, the only world leader who has spoken any sense about the Mexican stand-off on the Korean peninsula is Vladimir Putin, who pointed out the glaringly obvious truth that North Korean leadership, sublimely indifferent to the calorific needs of its people, would rather have them eat grass than surrender their nuclear programme. And Putin would know, because his herbivorous population must do the same — only they must dig through several feet of snow first.


Small man, not so small complex

My personal recommendation is to simply ignore him. Small people like to jump up and down and act like nutters because otherwise they are overlooked. The best chance of world peace rests with the possibility that an assassin can creep up to Kim Jong-un and wipe his face with a poisonous dishrag like the contract killing in Kuala Lumpur airport earlier on this year. Until that moment, the North Korean ultimatum can be interpreted like this: “If you won’t let us go nuclear, we’re going nuclear.”

Trump has, of course, backed himself into a corner. If one starts off threatening “fire and fury” it’s very difficult to up the ante because what comes next? Double fire and fury? Fire and fury cubed? He would have been better off invoking the Roman gods Stercorius, Crepitus and Cloacinus — the divinities of filth, farts and sewers — and perhaps that would have persuaded the pint-sized ponce of Pyongyang to pipe down.

Apropos of not very much, one detail which I found fascinating when it was revealed that Ivanka Trump had been given a private tour of the Kremlin several years back, was that she had been shown into Putin’s office and allowed to sit down at his bureau.

She remembered the visit (who wouldn’t?) but she had no recollection of sitting at Vlad’s desk, which strikes me as strange. It was the one with the big black phone on it, Ivanka, which is the hotline to Dad and beside that, a big red button with “NUKE” on it. 

It’s the same word in most languages. It’s not the kind of thing one forgets.

  • By The Pained Trader
  • 07 Sep 2017

All International Bonds

Rank Lead Manager Amount $m No of issues Share %
  • Last updated
  • Today
1 Citi 313,852.39 1175 8.95%
2 JPMorgan 286,674.13 1305 8.17%
3 Bank of America Merrill Lynch 281,869.72 974 8.04%
4 Goldman Sachs 214,547.99 704 6.12%
5 Barclays 205,147.76 790 5.85%

Bookrunners of All Syndicated Loans EMEA

Rank Lead Manager Amount $m No of issues Share %
  • Last updated
  • Today
1 Deutsche Bank 31,971.88 102 6.87%
2 HSBC 31,940.18 140 6.87%
3 Bank of America Merrill Lynch 29,065.55 82 6.25%
4 BNP Paribas 24,679.63 135 5.30%
5 SG Corporate & Investment Banking 22,195.55 122 4.77%

Bookrunners of all EMEA ECM Issuance

Rank Lead Manager Amount $m No of issues Share %
  • Last updated
  • Today
1 JPMorgan 14,960.44 66 7.87%
2 Morgan Stanley 13,992.90 72 7.37%
3 Citi 13,566.56 83 7.14%
4 UBS 13,028.25 52 6.86%
5 Goldman Sachs 11,994.74 65 6.31%