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Which means different pressures on future prices.

No doubt there are others. The birth of a market narrative often takes the form of Early Drumbeats. Here the Attention score is low but the Sentiment is high. The Street must try out different arguments, different stories before they can find one that sticks.

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But they WILL find the one that sticks, and the result is investor attention. Investors notice the sector. Investors hear the marketing effort. And investors buy. Can you measure Early Drumbeats in time T?

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All good things come to an end. Maybe the Street is so successful in creating a compelling market narrative that Attention gets unusually high Overbought. Measure that in time T? Or maybe the market narrative loses its focus while keeping a positive slant Wavering Bull. Or maybe the market narrative keeps its focus but sours on the sector Cohesive Bear. But I will continue to talk about our research program, rarely in the clear with notes like this, but openly and fully with our Epsilon Theory Professional subscribers.

But it will be one hell of a ride.


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Most of our research is devoted to uncovering and analyzing narratives in financial and political markets. Investment industry conventions and practices, however, are susceptible to abstraction and common knowledge effects as well. The most glaringly obvious example? Socially responsible, sustainable or ESG investing. Putting aside our personal perspectives on the underlying premises of ESG investing or those put forward by its practitioners , it is easy to see why it lives so easily in the land of narrative and abstraction.

Beyond what it actually is, however,the idea of responsible or sustainable investing is inextricably attached to all sorts of powerful social ideas, like political identity, moral value, finding meaning in professional work, national security, justice, climate change, and the roles of labor and capital. Far more often, we are really talking about a combination of these powerful social ideas.

That layer of abstraction makes ESG a ripe target for narrative and missionary behavior. Sure, as common knowledge about what it means to invest responsibly shifts, it may influence implementation. If common knowledge about ethical and responsible investing changes, it will influence the products available to us. It will also influence the pressures placed on us by clients, boards, legislatures and other constituencies. It will influence our reputations and livelihoods as investors.

We can believe whatever we want about ESG, but we cannot escape the influence of a powerful narrative, or an industry which has come to believe that everyone knows that everyone knows that ethical investing means following this set of rules or another. It seems to us that it has been present on more institutional investment conference agendas, too. But more conferences and some extra articles do not a narrative make.

Is there a persistent and growing ESG narrative? Has it finally become part of the Zeitgeist, a long-term feature of our investing culture? We did. And we think the answer is no. To answer this kind of question, the focus of our analysis will be our Cohesion measure. For any network graph of related articles, Cohesion measures the share of articles for which the mean normalized harmonic distance between a node and all other nodes is very near. These are not rolling measures, but reflect only the period in question.

The cyclicality, then, is a real feature of the data, and not some artifact of smoothing or averaging. In the low cohesion example — here from Q3 — a few things are apparent. Third, articles relating to financial market results e. In the aggregate, even at low ebb this is still a topic with reasonably high cohesion in comparison to others we research.

Note, as usual, that the squares reflect clusters produced by Quid , while the circles drawn reflect centers of gravity within the network graph that I have identified based on distance and connectivity across clusters. The exhibit below presents the network graph at its peak value two years later, in Q3 There are very few clusters or even nodes that do not fall within tightly defined clusters, and nearly every cluster overlaps somewhat with other clusters.

The plain-English explanation of this clustering is that the language used in discussions about ESG and SRI both descriptive language as well as language that communicated value judgments was far more similar. The existence of a strong counter-narrative or differential view would likely have resulted in more distance between clusters and nodes, and almost certainly more isolated clusters at much further average distance. This is what common knowledge looks like visualized. It probably will. I feel like Tim the Enchanter a lot, especially when I spend much time on Twitter.

Conversely, relationship owners always think that they can scale their nice little client-facing businesses with Technology IP. They are always wrong. The one rare exception is the use of Content IP, but even here you are scaling your client relationship depth, not your client relationship breadth. I mean identifying the social meaning of your services industry and implementing a business strategy that supports THAT. Social meaning is another word for Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. For the financial services industry, the Zeitgeist boils down to one core idea, one core dynamic:.

How have political leaders wrested control of price-setting from investors in the s, just as they wrested control of war-setting from generals in the s? For the past 10 years, ever since the end of the GFC, active investing in general and value investing and quality investing in particular have failed. The blue line below is a market neutral Quality Index sponsored by Deutsche Bank.

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They look at 1, global large cap companies and evaluate them for return on equity, return on invested capital, and accounting accruals … quantifiable proxies for the most common ways that investors think about quality. Have the Quality stocks in your portfolio gone up? In lock step, with nary a blip either way. Because it is. Sure, quality — like beauty — is in the eye of the beholder. But the core bias of every discretionary manager, regardless of asset class or geography or whatever corner of the investment world they play in, is always the same — buy the good stuff and avoid the crap. For the past decade, all of your smarts … all of your efforts … all of your time … all of your money … every resource you have devoted to distinguishing between good stuff and crappy stuff in large-cap public equity markets … has been wasted.

It has given you no better results than the less smart, less hard-working, less devoted, less well-resourced investors who just plopped their money willy-nilly into crappy stuff. As a result, your business model — which requires you to charge enough in fees to cover the cost of all these resources you have wasted — has been squeezed and squeezed and squeezed. Because no one is going to pay you more for less. Marketing alpha can only go so far.

They care about not doing again. Under any circumstances. They care about providing a rising tide that lifts all boats. This is what a change in the financial services Zeitgeist feels like. This is what a change in the financial services Zeitgeist IS.

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But hey, rail against carried interest taxed as capital gains and you, too, can insulate yourself and your company from the Democratic anti-oligarch jihad. The social meaning of crypto — its Zeitgeist — was absolutely the halo effect of rebellion it provided. And what a convenient rebellion it was.

Owning crypto was like getting a tattoo on your upper arm … you could tease it when desired as a signifier of your counter-culture bona fides, but you could also cover it completely while working for the Man. And maybe get rich, to boot! IF crypto makes a comeback, I think Gemini will dominate the exchange space.

Does Vanguard even have a TV ad budget? And yet the AUM just comes rolling in, billion after billion after billion … trillion after trillion after trillion. THIS is the power of a business model that fits the Zeitgeist of capital markets transformed into political utility. Financial services companies live and die on distribution. Clients come and clients go. No matter what happens to performance. All night long.