Jan 17, 2010

Once-in-a-Century Credit Tsunami

When will the next crisis happen and what magnitude will it be?
Investor or actuary, this question puzzles our mind, isn't it?

In the Financial Analysts Journal (January/February 2010) professors Guofu Zhou and Yingzi Zhu raised a similar key question:

Actually Zhou and Zhu did research on a 'October 2008 congress quote' by Alan Greenspan:

We are in the midst of a 'once in a century' credit tsunami


Zhou and Zhu Research
Given the fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped more than 50 percent, from 14,164 on 9 October 2007 to 6,547 on 9 March 2009, Zhou and Zhu answered the question whether a drop of 50% would be likely to occur once in a century.

Using daily data on the DJIA from 26 May 1896 to 19 June 2008, Zhou and Zhu estimated the long-term average DJIA-return (sample) at µ = 7.4% (excluding dividends) and the long-term volatility, known as the sample standard deviation, at s = 18.2% a year.

DowJones Industrial Average
May 1896 - June 2008
Average return: 7,4%
Standard deviation: 18.2%

On basis of the long-term data, Zhou and Zhu calculated the probability for the market to drop more than 50 percent from a high to a low over a 100-year horizon, considering two different models:
  1. Random Walk Model, excluding dividend
  2. Long Run Risks Model: complex dynamic simulation model, including consumption growth, dividend growth and asset prices

Here is the summarized outcome of their calculations:

As is clear on basis of the Long-Term Risks Model (LTR-Model), no matter what average return or standard deviation, the probability of a 50% draw down over a 100-year horizon is practically almost 100%.

50% draw down over an n-year horizon?
Given these results of Zhou and Zhu, we can now easily and (very) roughly approximate the probability, P(n), of a 50% draw down over an n-year horizon.

with r= P(1). We now roughly 'fit' P(n) to the results of the Long-Term Risks Model as follows:

It turns out the LTR-Models roughly corresponds with one year '50% draw downs probabilities' between r=4% and r=10% [r=P(1)].
As is clear from the table above, even over a 10-year period there's a substantial probability, somewhere between 33% and 65%, of a 50% market breakdown.

Also we can be more than 90% sure to become a witness of a market tsunami once in a lifetime......

The next market tsunami
Up to the next market tsunami, I would guess...., as tsunamis don't have a memory or allow themselves to fit into statistics or models like the ones mentioned above. Unlike natural sea-tsunamis, we - ourselves - are responsible for creating these 'financial tsunamis'.

Irrational Risk Attitude
But even if we are aware of the risk and are not responsible for creating the risk, we have an irrational risk attitude as human beings.
With the recent (2010) Haiti earthquake fresh in mind, let's take a look at the way we deal with the probability of an earthquake.

Los(t) Angeles .....................?
According to the 2007 Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities (WGCEP 2007) the probability of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake over the next 30 years striking the greater Los Angeles area is 67% (mark the similarity in our P(n) table!).

Yet we deny this reality and 'hope' for the better. Perhaps if every city would have to value the estimated fair value of this earthquake expectation in his balance sheet, things would change. However, I doubt.....

People act irrational with regard to Risk. If we can't manage it, we deny it. If we can manage it, we screw it up!

- Article Is the Recent Financial Crisis Really a ‘Once-in-a-Century’ Event?
- Wall Street Journal article, October 2008: Greenspan
- Credits: CFA Institute
- California Earthquake Probabilities
- Download Spreadsheet of tables used in this blog

Jan 10, 2010

US Employment Rate Halleluja

As a professional actuary, just take a look at the next selected "Dave Rosenberg's charts" , showing:

  • Chrt2: The true measure of US Joblessness end 2009: 17%
  • Chrt3: Median duration of unemployment rose to 20.5 weeks
  • Chrt5: Overall employment rate is 58%, lowest since 1983

You don't have be an actuary to understand the importance of a healthy Employment-to-population ratio, given the increase of the 'aging population' in the next decades....

As an expert in statistics, would you say we're on the right track?
What would you advice US?

Used Sources:
- Excellent original article by Dave Rosenberg (pdf)
- The lost decade
- Forget Unemployment, The Real Nightmare Is EMPLOYMENT
- Dutch: De Amerikaanse banenhoax

Jan 7, 2010

Actuary - Best Job in the World

'Actuary' ranks as the best job for 2010, based on research into 200 different positions in this year's exclusive CareerCast.com Jobs Rated report and published by The Wall Street Journal.

Using five key measurement criteria – stress, working environment, physical demands, income and hiring outlook – the Jobs Rated report seeks to compare and contrast careers across a multitude of industries, skill levels and salary ranges, sorting them into a definitive ranked list of jobs.

So why is Actuary rated number one?
For starters, the position ranks especially well for its low physical demands and stress levels, finishing 2nd and 3rd, respectively, out of all 200 jobs. But more importantly, it is actuary's consistently strong performance overall that helped the job rise to the top of the 2010 Jobs Rated list.

Who says being an actuary is boring?
Interested in a zero unemployment profession?

Jan 4, 2010

Risk Management Humor

Happy new year! At the start of 2010 let's have some 'serious fun' with the next

Actuarial Risk Management Puzzle Joke

Three actuaries and three accountants are traveling by train to visit a 'Risk Management Conference'. At the station, the three accountants each buy tickets and watch as the three actuaries buy only a single ticket.

"This looks very risky. How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?", one of the accountants asks.

"Watch and you'll see! Take notice of our brand new risk management approach", one of the actuaries answers.

They all board the train. The accountants take their respective first class seats, but all three actuaries cram into a restroom and close the door behind them.

Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the restroom door and says, "Ticket, please." The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on.

The accountants were deeply impressed by the actuarial approach and agreed it was - after all - quite a clever idea without any substantial risk.

So, completely confident and with even more Risk Management skills gained at the inspiring Conference, the accountants decide to copy the actuaries new risk approach on the return trip and save some money (accountants have always been clever with money!). When they get to the station they buy a single ticket for the return trip.

To their astonishment, this time the actuaries don't buy a ticket at all. "This is reckless, how are you going to travel without a single ticket?", one of the perplexed accountants asked. "Watch and you'll see! Take full notice of our latest risk management approach" answered an actuary.

When they board the train the three accountants cram into a restroom and the three actuaries cram into another one nearby. The train departs.

Here the story stops for a moment. Let's find out if you qualify as a Actuary Risk Manager (ARM) or - otherwise - could better have become an accountant.

Can you finish the story? What was the alternative Risk management Plan of the actuaries?

Just check the next box (or go to the original Actuary-Info Blog site) to find the right answer.......


What conclusions can we draw from this simple story?

  • Risk Management is a game without end

  • The effect of Risk Management Conferences is threefold:
    1. Some attendants get smarter
    2. Others get overconfident
    3. Final result: Increasing Risk, instead of decreasing Risk

  • There's an old Dutch saying that expresses the danger of increased Risk Management :

    "A warned man counts for two"

  • If we want to reap the fruits of Risk Management, accountants and actuaries have to start working together, instead of struggling and competing each other.

  • Risk Manager Profile and qualifications
    Insight, creativity and integrity are important requirements to become a professional Risk Manager. Unfortunately, this is not enough.

    To tackle Risk Management in a company, you need the best potential crook around. One who's willing to settle his salary and earnings for a little less than he would have earned as a real crook, in return for having a respectable job and not risking to end up in jail. You could call it the Personal Risk management of the Risk manager. Employers that settle for an inferior Risk Manager, know one thing for sure: someday somebody more 'crooky' than 'your risk manager' will tear your company down!

With some humor, we've gained new insights in the challenging world of Risk Management. Anyway, a Happy & Healthy 2010 !