Lose your job now - and it's terminal

Just sometimes you still feel like a genuine player.

I was in this Mayfair restaurant on Friday, looking at the waiters in their cream linen jackets, checking out the hedge fund guys with their beautiful companions, feeling the weight of money matters being discussed. And you know what, for one blissful moment I felt like I was a part of that scene again.

My client declined all alcoholic enticement, preferring a somewhat out of character diet coke, while I sipped on a glass of Soave. And then he asked me: “So how’s it going?” and I had to bite my tongue, because it simply isn’t. Going, that is.

I must be one of hundreds of dealing / trading desk types who saw the long, dead summer finally sputter back to life in September, only to have the lights dashed out in October, as we returned to a dealers’ strike, investor apathy, and the usual uncertainties about US rates, and China’s growth prospects.

And then there's end of year bonuses. Yes, I just had to get that one in - since there’s hardly going to be any, especially in my world of non-bulge bracket. Everyone refers somewhat enviously to the Goldman, JPMorgan, BoA Merrill Lynch cabal - by which all others try to measure themselves, conveniently forgetting the hundreds of other firms that are now pretty much scraping around doing nothing.

This is the biggest standoff anyone can remember in the bond markets. Secondary markets have ground to a halt, with a marked indifference to 'value'. The problem is dealers are now either long and wrong, being full of inventory they can’t sell, or they’re trying desperately not to get whip-sawed going into their year end.

Whilst in previous years we may have joked about bonus protection strategies, this year it’s a whole lot more serious. There’s no strategy - because there’s no market! Not one that many of us would recognise, anyway. People are hanging on by their fingertips, and just want to keep the day job. It’s not a coincidence that so many large firms (RBS, HSBC, Deutsche, JPM etc,) are reviewing their strategy and getting the hatchet men out of the closet.

As one of my linguistic colleagues keeps saying: 'Alles ist vorbei' (It's all over). Lose your job in this market, and it’s terminal.

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