It has been now almost ten years since the last serious financial crisis. We are not talking about the relatively minor pullbacks in the stock market, of course. Is the financial system stable now? When and why the next crisis can come? What might be the major causes for such an event? Oh, if we only knew…
However, one of the brightest minds on the Wall Street, Dr. Marko Kolanovic (his Ph.D. is in theoretical physics) warns about possibility of such an event (it is part of a very detailed and substantial 168 pages report published by JPMorgan).
He thinks that computerized trading and the abundance of passive investments set up the stage for a major calamity. Due to the speed of the trading algorithms, the liquidity in certain underlying instruments can disappear very quickly, and this will lead to the well-known phenomenon of sharp drops in the indices. A huge number of institutional and retail investors own the same positions either directly or via ETF’s and other instruments. If for some reason they all decide to sell even one position (think about Tesla’s CEO interview last week), this might lead to a complete collapse of the market.
Almost all trading algorithms stop trading during very volatile markets, and this might completely dry out the market. The banks will have to step in, the government will step in, a lot of pension funds will collapse, retail investors will lose their savings and this might lead to social unrest. Dr. Kolanovic does not necessarily predicts that but warns about the signs appearing on the horizon. Dr. Harari in his book “Home Deus” is asking a question about the soul and consciences of computer algorithms. They have none! Home Sapiens do, and their reaction to such market events might be very disruptive.
Once again, this is not a prediction but rather a food for thought.