Sep
17

Price War$

Rupert Russell's "Price War$: How the Commodities Markets Made Our Chaotic World" (2022) is a mass market book, however as a PhD holder from Harvard I picked this up to see if there are any interesting insights. With the exception of parts relating to Ukraine and Trump, the majority of the content of the book seemed dated between 2008 and 2014, which is reflected in the endnotes / bibliography as well. It would have been useful to know when all the trips were made, but most often this is not mentioned by the author, although points of reference suggest many of these also did not take place recently (reducing the journalistic value of a mass market book like this).

Although not a novel point, some interesting notes on algorithm trading:

"The computers are scanning headlines from all over the world, searching for chaos, looking for a small disturbance that could send prices higher and—before anyone has even read the headline, let alone verified it—trade automatically. The sheer volume of the algorithmic trades magnifies the mere suggestion of chaos— such as an army approaching a refinery—into an all-too-real price shock..." (p. 87) 

"The closer I got to understanding prices, the weirder they became. They were supposed to be synthesising information, coordinating global supply chains, moving people and goods and services to the most productive parts of the economy. Instead, prices were caught up in a social game that revolved not around reality but around collective perception of a reality, an orthodoxy. Just as in a cult or a religion, it is through the quick and public embrace of the emerging orthodoxy that material benefits are accumulated, be they wealth or status. In the long term, orthodoxies often crumble. But in the short term they can appear invincible, as unquestionable arbiters of truth and fortune." (p. 89) 

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