The Aleph Blog » Blog Archive » Bicycle Stability Versus Table Stability — II

Bicycle Stability Versus Table Stability — II

An article in the New York Times quoted by Barry Ritholtz on risk management tells some very salutary lessons.  Value-at-Risk, and other systems that rely on liquid tradable markets fail when bid-ask spreads widen.

One of my main lessons on risk comes from the concept of “bicycle stability versus table stability.” As I said at RealMoney: “This emphasis on the size of monthly payments to the consumer reminds me of the 1920s. We have traded table stability for bicycle stability. A bicycle is stable if it continues to move forward; a table is stable regardless. In an effort to ‘lock in’ housing prices in markets that are rising rapidly, many people are doing things that are rational in the short run, but not necessarily in the long run.”

I’ve talked about the the difference between bicycle and table stability before at this blog, notably:

If your risk control methods require liquidity, then they won’t work when you need reduction of risk the most.  There are no free lunches in risk management.  In order to get “table stability” leverage has to be reduced, and in some cases, cash balances carried in order to assure that an enterprise can survive in all circumstances.  It implies a lower ROE in good times, in order to be sustainable in the worst times.

General | RSS 2.0 |

4 Responses to Bicycle Stability Versus Table Stability — II

  1. Mcwop says:

    My (and others) current hypothesis, which still needs vetting, is that during this crisis banks are buying treasuries (including with TARP monies) trying to recapitalize, and put more credit worthy assets on their balance sheets. If treasuries are indeed “in a bubble”, then if that market drops, do we have another round of marking to market? I guess at least there is readily available pricing for treasuries.

  2. retail_guy says:


    I absolutely love the Bicycle versus Table stability concept. It is elegant in its simplicity.

  3. VennData says:

    Manhattan Real Estate has wide bid ask spreads.

  4. One final note here — financial risk models correspond to bicycle stability, while cash flow driven actuarial models correspond to table stability.


David Merkel is an investment professional, and like every investment professional, he makes mistakes. David encourages you to do your own independent "due diligence" on any idea that he talks about, because he could be wrong. Nothing written here, at RealMoney, Wall Street All-Stars, or anywhere else David may write is an invitation to buy or sell any particular security; at most, David is handing out educated guesses as to what the markets may do. David is fond of saying, "The markets always find a new way to make a fool out of you," and so he encourages caution in investing. Risk control wins the game in the long run, not bold moves. Even the best strategies of the past fail, sometimes spectacularly, when you least expect it. David is not immune to that, so please understand that any past success of his will be probably be followed by failures.

Also, though David runs Aleph Investments, LLC, this blog is not a part of that business. This blog exists to educate investors, and give something back. It is not intended as advertisement for Aleph Investments; David is not soliciting business through it. When David, or a client of David's has an interest in a security mentioned, full disclosure will be given, as has been past practice for all that David does on the web. Disclosure is the breakfast of champions.

Additionally, David may occasionally write about accounting, actuarial, insurance, and tax topics, but nothing written here, at RealMoney, or anywhere else is meant to be formal "advice" in those areas. Consult a reputable professional in those areas to get personal, tailored advice that meets the specialized needs that David can have no knowledge of.

 Subscribe in a reader

 Subscribe in a reader (comments)

Subscribe to RSS Feed

Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Seeking Alpha Certified

Top markets blogs award

The Aleph Blog

Top markets blogs Bull, Boards & Blogs

Blog Directory - Blogged

IStockAnalyst supporter

All Economists Contributor

Business Finance Blogs
OnToplist is optimized by SEO
Add blog to our blog directory.

Page optimized by WP Minify WordPress Plugin