“Blackstone sinks on second trading day.” Poor Stephen Schwarzman is $600 million poorer today than he was yesterday, according to the paper. Remember, the whole deal was set up, supposedly, because he was getting ready for retirement and needed to cash out his position. Now what? Will he be able to retire as planned? Oh, don’t worry Steve – there’s still Social Security.
You have to admire this guy. He created a company that was supremely, almost sublimely, suited to this worldwide financial bubble environment. He made billions while the bubble was inflating. And then, he sold out! Not completely, but largely, at what must be close to the very top.
And even more remarkable, the sale was fraught with such heavy irony that it seemed like the whole structure of modern investment theory might be crushed by it. Here was a company that had made billions in private equity, now selling itself to investors on the basis of a track record it could no longer keep up, for it was no longer a private equity company.
Now, it is public. Logically, if public markets are as smart as the theorists say, Blackstone’s (NYSE: BX) share price will already reflect its profitability. Which is a way of saying the obvious: The real profits were made when Schwarzman sold, not when the lumpeninvestor bought. Schwarzman is the real investor. The buyers are simply chumps.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe also continues to provide real world, real time lessons on how markets really work. A Reuters report tells us that the Zimbabwean greenback was pegged to the U.S. model back in April at the rate of 15,000 to one. But now it is June and a single U.S. dollar bill will bring you a stack of 200,000 Zimbabwean dollars.
Do you see how it works? The more the central bank of Zimbabwe puts out dollars, the more people don’t want them. This is the way everything works. Quality and quantity vary inversely. In the currency world, an increase in the quantity of money, leading inevitably to a decline in its quality – its purchasing power – is called inflation.
But oh – if only it were simpler! We now have a phenomenon that not even Mises foresaw. The U.S. dollar increases in quantity – depending on how you measure it – at a speed variously clocked at three to ten times faster than GDP growth. U.S. dollar-denominated derivative contracts now have a nominal value equal to 12 times the total output of the entire world. And so far, people are not exactly eager to get rid of U.S. dollars. At the top end, inflation in art, antiques, collectibles, Shanghai shares, luxury houses and so forth is proceeding at a rapid – though, still not Zimbabwean – pace. At the bottom, inflation in consumer prices is mixed…and middlin’.
It is surely a Crack Up Boom we are living through. But things are so cracked and so booming, it is hard to know what will happen next – but we have our suspicions.
Markets and Money