Where finance and media intersect with reality


Spot Markets Live, 15/12/23 (Review of the year and learnings, etc.)

Mar-a-Lago classified meme
JR = Julian Rimmer (Resident Boomer and former EM markets pro turned writer.)

IK = Izabella Kaminska, Mother of Blind Spot Dragons.

10:30 JR: Good morning, Aloha and greetings fellow market wizards

And so it came to  pass that this was the last Spot Markets Live of 2023

I balanced all, brought all to mind/ The years to come seemed waste of breath/ A waste of breath the years behind

That was the year that was… things we remember… Let’s pull up the trouser leg of time and examine the leg hairs of history. It’s a time for reflection.

And what better person to have beside one, than Izzy Kaminska

That’s a rhetorical question

So, for starters, what was your highlight of 2023, Izzy?

10:32 IK: So I am going to warn readers that what follows (having had a sneak peek) is a somewhat – dare I say – bitter and aggrieved review of the year that was 2023 from Julian.

And in the spirit of cuddliness, optimism and general contrarianism, that means I am going to have to focus on some of the more positive highlights of the year.

Like the hard landing that never was. And the excitement of many people finally getting pay rises.

Indeed, I will embody the role of Jesus (who i’ve learned from the review Julian is not a fan of necessarily) and bring you the “good news” of 2023.

But before I do, I also wanted to mention that my original intent was to run through some of my biggest “learnings” from the year.

But Julian has actually done the prep, so I will keep those to five bullets.

10:33 JR: A reminder here that bitterness can hold a man together

10:33 IK:

  1. I did not know anything about how the European Union technically works. Thanks to being at Politico I still don’t know anything relative to my peers and colleagues in Brussels, but I know a helluva lot more than the average person in London. I can finally tell you the difference between a Council meeting and a plenary. Or what a trilogue is. Or why Orban felt compelled to just not show up at a council meeting.

10:33 JR: That is a blind spot shared by most people

10:34 IK: It’s definitely a black box, and the biggest leaking machine this side of the titanic.

10:34 JR: So have you emerged from this experience with more or less respect for the institution?

10:34 IK: I would say it’s way more convoluted, bureaucratic, horse-tradey (i.e. transactional) and generally dysfunctional than I ever imagined. 

And so complex it’s impossible to keep to account. Which was kind of the point of Politico focusing on BRussels.

10:35 JR: A new Byzantium

10:35 IK: And they do do it well, but sadly, have ended up writing mostly for the bubble itself.

But that is to be expected given the size of the institution and the nature of the politics in Europe. Alas.

Bullet point 2

… I have had a similar learning curve about UK politics, having tried to escape the inner machinations of how Westminster works for decades. This year I attended no less than three little MP-sponsored hearing things at Westminster. I’m starting to feel like a regular.

10:36 JR: And your reflection?

10:37 IK: I would say it’s way more convoluted, bureaucratic, horse-tradey (i.e. transactional) and generally dysfunctional than I ever imagined.

And I’m starting to think most democratically appointed politicians don’t have any power at all. And maybe it would be quite cool to vote for the monarchs. Maybe Dario does have a point?

No, seriously, I guess I have to default to that Churchill saying: Democracy sucks. But it sucks way less than all the other alternatives.

Or was that about capitalism?

@helmholtz – I actually sat down with Bernard Connolly in October for a leaked lunch.

But I haven’t been able to process it yet! BUT I WILL. He has a new book out.

10:39 JR: Time waits for no woman

10:39 IK: He is obviously a bit marmite, but I found his observations worthwhile.

  1. I actually bothered to inform myself about how the FATF works. It’s a shocker.

10:39 JR: FATF?


10:39 IK: (That’s the Financial Action Task Force, and it was another insight into how power and regulation actually works in an International globalised economy led by the US)

  1. I learned about the world of lobbyists and policy crafting/negotiation. Another shocker. I also got some insight into how the shallow world of collective action actually works (or doesn’t), by engaging in some free speech endeavours, which promptly reminded me why I hate politics or trying to persuade large groups of people about anything.

10:40 JR: You were so naïve

10:40 IK: Oh, alas. I was. A lifetime spent avoiding politics.

Final learning!

Following central banking (in particular at the ECB) in such detail as I have this year has also opened my eyes to a level of politicking and intrigue I was never aware of before.

In terms of the pure HIGHLIGHT of the year, it has to be…. (I’ll save it for the end).

10:41 JR: You were so naïve

10:41 IK: I was

But let’s start with your review (because we all know your biggest learning this year was that you realised you can’t type quickly enough).

10:41 JR: this wasn’t a learning. This was an established fact for many years.

The chimpanzee poking the keyboard like he’s picking insects from a tree

I use 2 fingers only, left index and right middle

So what happened?

There was a coup epidemic in Africa…

Niger booted Bazoum out of office in July , Gabon saw Ali Bong ousted in August, coup attempts in Gambia, Guinea -Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe.

Civil war in Sudan between Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces, the latter of whom now control Khartoum with heavy fighting in Darfur.

The learning?

One thing about 2024 is that resource security is going to become ever more important, especially in Africa. The Chinese and Russia have established a stranglehold on many authoritarian regimes that are resource rich. The West is left behind and needs to catch up pronto

An earthquake measuring 7.8 hit southern Turkey and Northern Syria in February. Ten hours later another hit measuring 7.7. 14 million people were affected, 10% of them left homeless.

10:43 IK: Wow, it’s amazing how by December you forget about stuff. That was a significant event that has largely been memory holed by now.

10:44 JR: The death toll numbered ~60-70,000.

Lax planning regulations and shoddy building practices directly overseen by Erdogan’s government which repeatedly gave building amnesties, contributed hugely to the damage and fatalities.

The rescue effort was typically chaotic and amateurish. Erdogan threw some money and teabags at the the homeless.

Three months later, demonstrating man’s infinite stupidity, he was elected back into office for another five years of theocratic, kleptocratic, kakistocratic authoritarianism

After which I gave up commenting and writing about Turkey because it seemed so pointless.

Azerbaijan seized Nagorno Karabakh from Armenia in Sept 2023. Russia offered no assistance.

10:45 IK: Memories of my time there revived in my mind.

(Not quite Dario going to N.Korea)

10:45 JR: Unusual place to visit?

10:46 IK: I remember it as a very barren and under invested piece of land, with sporadic tin roof houses with little very cute kids running around, but with no obvious prospects.

One of the issues is nobody will invest in disputed land.

This was 2003, though.

10:47 JR: India overtook China as the world’s most populous nation with 1.43bn people, set to be 1.7bn by mid-century

While China may lose 100mill of population and see its median age rise from 39 to 51 over the same period

10:47 IK: Didn’t realise that.

10:47 JR: 2023 was the year AI and ChatGPT fully entered the public consciousness and prompted grim, apocalyptic vision of dystopian societies controlled by automata and even AI pioneers like Musk and Wozniak warning of the dangers it poses.

10:48 IK: I think they had been doing that for years to be honest.

10:48 JR: I’ll make a confession: but this is like Philip Schofield coming out; it’s not a confession at all

I don’t really understand AI

Nor have i used ChatGPT

10:48 IK: That’s because you’re an NPC Jules 😉

10:48 JR: Ah, yes

10:48 IK: (wins most dismissive term of the year)

10:48 JR: I had heard that recently

Right, I’m going YOLO all in now

February saw a Chinese spy balloon (or a weather balloon blown off course if you listen to the Chinese) float over American skies until it was shot down.

10:49 IK: Oh, the spy balloon! YES! That’s maybe my favourite story of the year.


Can we pause and take a moment to sing ninety-nine luft balloon.

10:49 JR: What is a nuft balloon? Sounds rude.

10:49 IK: I was so excited by that story when I was skiing I inadvertently caused this:


10:50 JR: Relations remain fraught with more trade restrictions imposed by the Americans, Biden calling Xi a dictator (why anyone thought this was noteworthy, I cannot tell you)

And China demonstrating yet more behaviour with regard to Taiwan, the Philippines and US military forces in Asia.

Summer of the Ukrainian offensive which floundered primarily owing to a lack of long distance artillery and airpower – and the fact that the west waited so long to back the offensive with materiel that the Russians had prepared thoroughly.

Ukraine fatigue set in as the kommentariat started writing articles about war fatigue because they seemed easier and more newsworthy than trying to find the vocabulary to describe yet another atrocity perpetrated by the savages in Russian uniforms

The summer also saw an attempted coup by Wagner PMC leader, Prigozhin, who turned his army of 25,000 men towards Moscow after complaining of a shell famine imposed by Shoigu and Gerasimov.

After eventually being dissuaded from entering Moscow, a brief hiatus followed with complex negotiations that were ended when Prigozhin and his commanders were blown up in their plane en route to St. Pete.  No tears were shed for this coarse, unattractive, psychotic thug.

10:52 IK:
I didn’t realise Prighozin was Jewish. Or that he was a source of so much internet conspiracy and disinfo, because of how he left WhatsApp voice messages all over the shop claiming all sorts of things (WhatsApp voice messages being his favourite medium of communication).
10:53 JR: October 7th witnessed the worst massacre of Jews in southern Israel since the Holocaust, provoking, rather surprisingly, an unprecedented outburst of anti-Semitic protests across the world, that were somehow lacking during the slaughter of Muslims in Chechnya, Syria, Kurdistan,  Sbrenica, Sudan and so on

2023 was the hottest year on record but, try as I may, I simply cannot force myself to read anything about climate change.

10:55 IK:  I was in Corfu at that time, and while I wouldn’t dispute well compiled holistic statistics pointing to the worst summer on record, much worse even than when all the dinosaurs burned out, on a local level, it didn’t feel half as bad as the media was making out at the time.

10:55 JR: I know climate change is important but after trying to do the CFA in ESG I just cant bring myself to read about it.

10:55 IK: I think the key thing to say from a markets view is that 2023 was the year ESG finally got a big pushback. We salute you investors who stood up to Larry Fink.

10:56 JR: On the sporting front, highlights were the RWC in autumn in France won by the charmless, mechanical South African team and the Ashes during the summer.

@peterd – we’ll ask Dario

10:56 IK: (Oh and must add a secret highlight of the year was Greta becoming an anti wind turbine campaigner)

10:57 JR: It was a thrilling test series with only one tedious day’s cricket, the second day at the Oval when Australia scored about one run every six overs and, of course, it was the day I attended.

Carlos Alcaraz won Wimbledon and the Dane, Vingegaard won the Tour de France by a huge margin. Australia won the cricket World Cup.

Everton secured Premier League safety with a last match victory against Bournemouth while, in other news, Man City won the Champions League.


Lula was sworn in Jan 1st. He’s pro-Putin. I don’t like him.

Pope Benedict, the first Nazi pope, died in January, probably wearing those ridiculous red slippers.

10:58 IK:  He had an unexpectedly long queue.

Not quite Queen level, but nearly.

10:58 JR: @marks – Formula 1 has the same effect on me as Greta Thunberg. I turn off the news

10:58 IK: Not sure it’s quite fair to describe him as the first Nazi pope. It’s not like he was an active Nazi at papal accession (or whatever you call being papified). Also, if we’re going to hold being in the nazi youth against people, I have a very long list…

10:59 JR:  I don’t mind not being fair with popes

10:59 IK:

10:59 Helmut Kohl – Wikipedia
10:59 JR: @peterd- The shame was the best match was the first: France vs NZ

Credit Suisse was saved from bankruptcy by a ‘merger’ with UBS

(which I now understand was the reason CS wouldnt hire me for one whole year)

Silicon Valley Bank collapsed.

Lebanon’s currency, the pound, lost 90% of its value in Feb.

Xi won re-election, colour me astonished.

11:01 IK: On Credit Suisse – I think the biggest insight was realising how much of their asset book was made of yacht securitisations.

11:01 JR: Bola Tinubu was elected president of Nigeria. There’s is nothing odd about him at all.

Elon Musk suffered a setback when his  SpaceX Starship rocket, the largest ever built, exploded within 4mins of launch. I registered a Schadenfreude reading of 11.

11:01 IK: @mark – I love that idea!

While everyone else is reviewing 2023, we would stubbornly review 2022

11:02 JR: @marks – was it Lou En Chai ? It’s way too soon to tell what 2022 was like, we haven’t sorted the French Revolution yet

Someone called Charles became the latest half-German inbred to squat in Buckingham Palace wearing a crown and asking us peasants to bow obsequiously before him.

He decided his missus was a Queen. Not mine, though. I left the country for an entire week.

Donald Trump was charged with 91 criminal offences. He is guilty of all of them and more.

11:03 IK:  Well, technically, he is innocent until proven guilty. And chances are he might currently be beaten to the jailhouse by Hunter Biden. Which would be something nobody saw coming.

11:03 JR: If you’re fat and stupid though, this oompa loompa with a long tie is your idea of Jesus. If you have an IQ above room temperature you regard him as someone who should not be trusted with cutlery, even if he’s eating his well-done steaks with ketchup.

And at this point, I would respectfully request a pat on the back from Izzy for managing to keep my anti-Trump rhetoric mostly in abeyance on spot mkts live

11:05 IK: Well, while I think you’re definitely entitled to your Trump (let’s face it very consensus) hatred and it is defendable, I don’t think it really offers much in the way of insight. I prefer to take the herodotus line, in the sense of cataloguing history from a neutral standpoint and not letting emotions get in the way of investments. And the thing about trump, is …

It is all ye obsessed with him folk, that have managed to make him a comeback item. Had you just left him alone on Mar-a-Lago, he would be old news by now. But no, you had to indict him and give him a martyr complex, as if you had forgotten his main fan base love to be martyrs – because they’re all Christians.

11:06 JR: So true

11:06 IK: I suggest you had it coming.

11:06 JR: I deserve everything i get. that is my big learning of spot mkts live

Wildfires in Maui

11:06 IK: Anyway.. moving swiftly on

11:07 JR: I only mention those to relate that in 1963, my auntie Geraldine saw Blue Hawaii at the local fleapit in Liverpool and emigrated a month later, never to return

The Beatles released ‘Now and Then’ with restored vocals from John Lennon. The video made me come over all lachrymose.

Milei, continuing the trend of populists with ludicrous hairstyles promising easy solutions to complex problems, was elected President of Argentina.


11:08 JR: Very comprehensive list of grudges, I think you’ll find

11:08 IK: So I think that kind of wraps up our review of the year. Though I have to challenge JR to provide me with the thing he least expected to happen which happened?

11:09 JR: That’s easy

My son passed his driving test at the 5th attempt

11:09 IK: For me, I think it was the resilience of the US market. Sorry to lower the tone. But also the weakness of the oil markets, which has been nicely summed up in news overnight that Pierre Andurand’s fund has seen a huge loss this year.

11:09 JR: @johndc77 – we live in a post-factual reality

You didn’t say you wanted actual news!

11:10 IK: 54% slump this year. This bit from the Bloomberg report caught my eye:

“The decline highlights how challenging the year has been for oil bulls. Much of the industry entered 2023 with high expectations that crude was heading toward $100 a barrel as China completed its economic reopening from the Covid-19 pandemic. But the market stumbled in March as international travel failed to roar back as anticipated. It has since suffered a series of setbacks. A rally over the summer, stoked by record global demand and a cut in supplies by OPEC+, took prices close to $100 but fizzled after the squeeze reined in consumption while shale oil from US flooded the markets. Prices sank to a five-month low this week.”

I should point out I was schedueld to do a leaked lunch with Pierre, and he had agreed to it and all. But then it got rescheduled, and then rescheduled. And then he stopped answering my emails…

Suffice it to say, that might have been an indicator he had other things on his mind.

11:12 JR: Pierre?

11:12 IK: For those who don’t know, Pierre Andurand used to be a big wig trader at Vitol who then helped start Blue Gold

He then started his own fund. And is basically the sort of trader that can move markets with his comments.

I think you would get along with him. He’s big into his health. Hates Putin. Was very good at predicting that we could actually get through sanctions without too much fallout (something I got wrong) – though he doesn’t drink.

11:13 JR: Some good, some bad then

11:13 IK: Somehow ended up on a night out in a Monte Carlo casino with …..

But that’s a story for another day

11:13 JR: Sounds like one for right now, actually, Izzy?

Moving along

11:14 IK: Moving on..

11:14 JR: More tea, vicar

Things to come in 2024

It is the Chinese New year of the dragon, starting in Feb. Or more specifically the wood dragon

Which doesn’t sound like a very flexible dragon

What are you hoping for in 2024, Izabella?

11:15 IK: I am hoping for sponsorship for SML, and a revival in the subscription business so that I can break free and be independent again.

Just kidding. I love Politico, but having two jobs is a bit much for me. So either way something has to get consolidated.

On the market front, I think that actually we are all going to learn to love inflation.

I think it’s possibly going to prove the key thing that gets the economy mobilised and growing. And we will all agree 2% is not sufficient for the Western world anymore.

What about you?

11:17 JR: Frankly, I’m tiring of the life of a suburban shopkeeper and would dearly like to resign

And focus on writing or mkts or journalism exclusively

But on a wider spectrum I would like to see putin and trump defeated convincingly.

In mkts… there are, I read today, 152 rate cuts forecast globally in 2024

Can the Fed land its jumbo gently on the runway to the applause of its passengers or will it headplant on the tarmac, Boeing 737-MAX style?

Bonds, almost everywhere except Japan, look appealing.

Even if UST have run ahead of themselves

Bullion on central bank buying.

Fed pivot is ultra-bullish small-caps and REITS but commodities, ex oil, probably safest bet.

Like uranium still. Long OTM calls on China

How China deals with its economic crisis is clearly a big driver for mkts and i suspect they won’t do a great job of it because it’s the CCP

There are elections in 2024 in Taiwan (Jan 13th) India, the US, Britain, Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Russia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Romania, Moldova, Lithuania, Slovakia, Georgia

And, of course, the big one down in Tuvalu.

11:21 IK: You know how Apple phones occasionally push a photographic mini film of your holiday or year, which you then watch and go, “Ahhh. How cool”. I would love to see one of those films but for Sam Bankman Fried.

11:22 JR: That would be mind-boggling

11:22 IK: But before I do, here’s a meme that I quite enjoyed.

11:22 JR: The colossus who bestrode the world

Now cooling his heels in the slammer exchanging mackerel fillets for favours

11:23 IK: I think it speaks to what I have called “the entire economy is fyre festival” phenomenon. Meaning the corruption is now so entrenched, we often can’t even recognise it. Which is why I submit this meme as my main reflection on the year.

11:24 JR:
Do you have a hero for 2023, Izzy?11:24 IK: Julian, not all heroes wear capes.

I know you’ve already flagged a few low-key names that quietly made a huge difference without much fanfare.

11:25 JR: (I’m in still in with a chance here)

@marks – best regards

11:26 IK: But, the real hero of the year is clearly the man in the Swiss government who decided to force AT1 investors to be liquidated.

Now I appreciate this is a controversial choice.

But let’s face it, just imagine if AT1 bonds had not been triggered.

You, me, everybody – would now be living in a Mad Max world bartering for xmas turkey with our makerels.


11:28 JR: OK, we are now entering the last couple of mins in SML 2023 and I’d like to thank everyone for their time and their forbearance with my poor typing skills and I look forward to meeting up with as many of you as possible IRL in the future

11:28 IK: No wine pick for xmas dinner?

If money was no option

Go on.. we want the real pick

11:29 JR: Gimme a second

It would be 1982 Chateau Margaux

Only had a mouthful about 25 years ago but never forgot it.

11:29 IK: On that cheery note, I am off xxxxxxxx.

But for the sake of security, we can’t disclose the actual location.

11:30 JR: I’ve done that – you’ll regret it

@helmholtz – good idea

11:30 IK: Enjoy the hols everyone! And be good.

11:30 JR: @peterd- ?

Nunc tempus taciendi!

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