Richard Breslow: From First Word to Last Word

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Richard K. Breslow, my colleague on the markets team at Bloomberg News, died Monday morning. A former trader at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and WestLB AG, and a father of four, Richard was one of the wisest and most drily funny people I’ve met. I wish I’d had more than two years to learn from him. I have a later working day than most people at Bloomberg; Richard, after a lifetime as a trader, was happy to have a very early one. Although we had desks that faced each other, and did get to chat quite a lot, we rarely overlapped for more than a few hours.

When he arrived at Bloomberg, Richard played a key part in establishing the First Word service for currencies. More recently, he was best known for his Trader’s Notes column. This was one of those gems that you needed to subscribe to the terminal service to receive. But on this occasion, it’s appropriate to share one with a broader audience.

Richard Breslow: From First Word to Last Word

The last Trader’s Notes to appear was on Oct. 16. I doubt he was consciously writing a last testimony for the world, or summing up his experiences. But what he wrote does read to me like something close to a last testament. The amount of wisdom Richard crammed into one brief column, both on investment and markets, and on the specifics of the pandemic situation, is quite extraordinary. I wish I’d written it, and reproducing it here is the best tribute I can make to him.

Markets Don’t Always Obey Your Whims or Follies: Trader’s Notes

Have you ever had one of those mornings? My alarm went off at 2 a.m. and I was giggling. I was watching, in my dream, a furious debate between two people about English as a second language. And was sure both combatants were correct in their interpretations concerning what everything meant. The world is full of grey areas. And I was furiously moving back and forth in my allegiance as I followed the event. There is little doubt it was an esoteric debate at best. Maybe it was silly. I don’t know. I’m so sorry I no longer remember all of the details. It’s the way dreams work. But it all seems more than a perfect metaphor regarding how we are looking at the world. No one has a clue, and we see everything through the prism of our personal experience and assume everybody else shares our views and experiences. We don’t really have that right as commentators. Empathy is a responsibility, not merely a bone to be thrown out as it suits.

  • Markets have done nothing overnight. Which seems entirely appropriate. A little up and down, signifying nothing. It got me thinking about all of the debates about V-shaped recoveries, L-shaped ones, W’s, etc. All to fit the narrative of the day. Fit the commentary to the latest price action and noise. The reality is that the K-shaped truth is what we are experiencing in a way that can’t be denied. Good for many of us, to be sure. Unhealthy for many. A nightmare for policy makers with no solutions. And they will continue to dig the hole deeper. Keep priming the upper-K and giving lip-service to the other
  • I know everyone hates the dollar. It’s difficult to quite understand why. Being angry isn’t a valid reason. Unless you believe in the Asian resurgence. Which is the most dynamic, and relevant, development to watch. The DXY stopped going down in July. Get over it. The euro isn’t trading with any gusto. I’ve no problem with someone having a view. Happy days. Here’s the button to push. But we need to stop saying the trend will continue
  • Ten-year Treasuries haven’t moved since the kerfuffle in March. I see lots of reasons to have them as a safety valve. Zero to assume yields will take off. And if they do? Happy days. The thirties at 1.50% may be an opportunity, but don’t scream watch out
  • As far as equities are concerned, they are the golden child. It’s really the only market the authorities care about. It pains me to admit, but they must be your first priority. Ugh. The obvious ones keep flying. Making everyone look good. But the economy will only recover when the nuts and bolts ones from down below do better than get pulled along in the undertow

Rest in Peace, Richard.

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