Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013 end-year thoughts

‘For posterity, with sincerity’ – has been one of the overriding rules of blogging I am committed to obey, as I soldier on as the author of PES. If I write, I do it not only for my own pleasure, but for others, not only to let them enjoy my work, but also leave a testimony of my mindset at specific moments, in specific circumstances. If I write, I do not conceal nor misrepresent what I think or feel (unless there is a very profound reason to do so).

Since I entered adulthood (meaning turned 18) I have found the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve the most depressing period of the year. I can give several reasons that dash my spirits in the last days of each year:
- short, often gloomy days,
- in the Christmas period everything is ticking over, after pre-Christmas rush people slow down and human activity almost comes to a standstill, it seems the world is in a limbo, hanging somewhere in the space between heaven and hell,
- last days of the year naturally are the time of summaries, finishing things, making resolutions, for some reason it is the time when successes are outshined by failures.

I come to think the western civilisation has set Christmas around winter solstice and built such pre-occupying setting around it only to light up the time of the year which is naturally the most depressing on the north hemisphere. And I come to think New Year’s Day celebrations are also set a few days after, just to give a decent excuse for everyone to get tanked up…

Despite the overwhelming gloom, in each of the previous years I was looking forward to coming new year with a dose of optimism. This year I lack that cheerfulness. My feelings are not contrary to what I felt – I do not expect my life would get any worse, I just foresee little or no chance for improvement ahead.

Life-love-wise… Quite recently I gave you a brief overview of my attempts to find a second half. For the time being, I have given it a rest… Looking for a second half too intently is doomed to fail, so my strategy is to look for opportunities, instead of looking for a girl. There are odds something good lies ahead, but I don’t want to put a jinx on it. To avoid a letdown, as a matter of principle I hope for the worst. The downside of such approach is that I don’t let myself spread wings and taste the craze of having a crush on a girl, while the upside is I don’t get disillusioned when it all doesn’t pan out.

Learning-wise… Signing up for Level II was my independent decision, so I can hold it exclusively against myself. Preparations have been under way for four months, more than five months still to go. The curriculum is not as difficult as said by those who tried to scare me (if so many charter holders were capable of passing it at first attempt, why couldn’t I?), so if enough time is sacrificed and the issue is taken seriously and not treated as a proverbial ‘piece of cake’, I should take the exam in my stride. Before the exam day comes, I will have spent hundreds of hours poring over six thick volumes and then tens of hours revising the material and taking mock exams, but at least there is a tangible goal ahead…

Work-wise…In January 2013 I was faced with an opportunity to change a job. My prospective employer operates in the same industry, my new position would have been similar to the present one. I gave it up (by demanding sky-high salary and pricing out of the market) for several reasons, before the prospective employer decided to submit a commitment letter to me:
- my current employer within 2 weeks offered me a promotion and a substantial pay rise,
- scope of responsibilities on the new position did not suit my expectations – it actually involved being a sidekick of a salesperson, a relationship I can wriggle out of where I work,
- my new manager, unlike the current one, would have been a total jerk.

Before long my current workplace went on decline. From 2Q2013 the company began to lose its biggest customers, as either relationships with them had not fetched adequate profitability, or they had found our services uncompetitive. My employer’s credentials on the market has also been grimed – prime customers from the segment I deal with no longer want us to provide them services, while those in trouble eagerly turn to my company. Portfolio of large clients shrank dramatically (new volumes offset drop by less than 10%) and is unlikely to be restored, while the existing customers require more and more attention. In the meantime two colleagues from my team got pregnant and I (as an up-and-coming senior analyst) was assigned to take over most of their duties. When on top of this I got involved in a huge transformation project as a junior leader, I ended up working for 11 hours a day not to get behind with my work. Absence of new business loomed as salvation, but if an organisation focuses on itself, instead of on its customers, it will cease to make money sooner or later – with this truism in mind, my motivation dropped…

In October the prospective employer posted a job opening for a different position that seemed a dreamt-up one for me. Hoping to break away, I sent them the application, but my candidacy was turned down. The Soulmate, who has inside ties with the prospective employer, has a mission to suss out how it really was – whether my early-year game had resulted in burning bridges with the prospective employer, or the chosen candidate had been selected beforehand and the opening had been posted for procedural reasons, or maybe I just had not met their expectations. As I called the HR Department shortly before Christmas to find out what the status of my application was, and learnt they had selected a new employee, it was a blow for me…

My current job, for this single reason that my company effectively withdraws from the segment of clients I deal with, seems dead-end. According to my current employer’s declarations and recent moves, I should not expect to be fired when my department is wiped out. In an attempt to retain me, the employer may relocate me, or leave me covering all current troublesome clients, who do not stand a chance of being taken over by any of competitors. Either option is unattractive. The former because I will not find myself in project management, I will not find be satisfied doing a mundane reporting job. After all I’m a financial analyst and in the long-run doing a job that could be done by a clever high-school graduate is… beyond my dignity.  The latter because… it offers no opportunities to develop and is… dead-end. On the other hand, as the market is tough, if competitors look for staff it often means a transfer would mean jumping from frying pan into the fire… Decisions to change a job have to be taken carefully, to avoid falling into a trap. What brings some hope is that I still have some room for pay increase, compared to my current salary.

I had plans of moving out to my own flat in 2014. Over recent weeks, when I spent little time at home (leaving for work around 6:30 a.m. and coming back between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and somehow lost motivation to move out from parents. I’m self-supporting anyway, financially independent from parents, don’t let them help me out in any way, but living with them gives the benefit of having someone to talk to when returning home. In meantime, I keep putting aside around three-fourth of my salary, the savings will come in handy, when motivations flows back.

Christmas (politically correct ‘holiday’) period offered some respite (no working day off though): I spent time: sleeping (10 hours a day), eating (more than I usually do, but less than an average Pole does), doing physical exercise (going for at least 5-kilometre walks, going to swimming pool, riding a stationary bike), studying, in other words, catching up. Family visited us only at Christmas Eve, two subsequent Christmas days were uneventful. Much benefit for the body, little benefit for the soul. Not sustainable. May it take a turn for the better in the new year, against all odds…

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Sense of justice – follow-up

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

I knock off near six p.m., being still behind with work. Enough is enough, I call it a day. Before seven p.m. odds of getting stuck in stationary traffic on ul. Puławska are negligible. Indeed, the traffic moves smoothly and as I drive at steady speed of 60 kpmh, I even manage to cross most intersections on green light. While approaching home, I get stuck in a queue of cars before intersection of ul. Raszyńska and ul. Mleczarska. Something is afoot, drivers are perplexed. After a minute I trundle forward to the intersection, pass by several damaged cars and turn right, barely avoiding being scraped by a driver of black Volkswagen SUV who thinks he’s a master of the road, and head to park my car in the garage. Then I put my father in the picture and we wander to the intersection to find out what happened. Prangs involving two vehicles are not infrequent on the nearby intersection, as ul. Mleczarska is narrow and visibility is poor, but this looked like a bigger smash-up – four cars damaged.

Some 30 minutes earlier... (full story in Polish here)

Auchan shopping centre in Piaseczno. Droves of people are roaming around the hypermarket and the adjacent shopping mall. Pre-Christmas rush is conducive to getting preoccupied and losing one’s mind. The owner of red Honda Civic walks out of the shopping centre and approaches his car. He pulls the car keys out of his pocket, press the button to unlock the door and… notices someone inside his vehicle. The thief cranks up the engine and swiftly drives away. The incident is witnessed by other shoppers. One of them instantly picks up the Honda owner, who in the meantime calls a police patrol) and they set off on a chase.

After running away one kilometre the thief comes upon a small traffic jam on his way and is caught up with by the Honda owner. In a desperate attempt to make his way through the busy road the thief crashes into three cars, forsakes the car and tries to make a getaway on foot. Some of the aggrieved (in info who exactly) jump out their cars, overpower the thief, knock him down on the road do not let him make off before the police arrives. As my father and I turn up, the criminal with a bleeding nose (probably the effect of scrimmage, serves him right) lies on the cold tarmac, cuffed in and awaits facing the music.

Sounds like a story with a happy ending. The thief didn’t manage to escape and was (temporarily) arrested. Nobody was injured. Justice triumphed again!

But on the other hand, four cars of innocent people were damaged. Who will pay for the repairs? Will they be paid from Civic owner’s third party liability insurance? If so, who will compensate him for losing discounts for damage-free track record? If not, what if some of those cars weren’t insured against own damage? What about those which were, but the repair will make them lose their discounts? The inebriated thief will be held accountable for theft and property damage, but even if convicted, will the Polish justice system manage to pull the last zloty out of his (shallow?) pocket to compensate the victims of his wrongdoing?

The exemplary, swift and sympathetic reactions of crime witnesses is profoundly reassuring. Such positive illustrations of civic attitude should be exposed to the public (and even rewarded) to induce others to follow their example. Actually by disenabling the criminal, their contributed to increasing well-being of the society.

With hindsight, I again pondered upon the borderline that should not be overstepped, when you are faced with a criminal and need to crack down on them. Recollect this post from February 2010. I’ve harked back to it instantly, read over and could write the same, in terms of content, today. When I return to my early posts of pension system, monetary policy and other issues I have clear views on, I see over almost five years of blogging my beliefs not only have not evolved, but even have become more entrenched. Does it mean my formative years have gone by so early?

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Longevity – a reason to be cheerful?

Musings written with considerable delay – should have been posted here a few weeks ago, as on 24 October 2013 my paternal grandparents had their 65th wedding anniversary and my paternal grandmother turned 88 on 3 November 2013.

My maternal grandmother died from cancer aged 73, when I was only four, so I barely remember her, but until the last weeks of her life, when the disease began to advance rapidly, she stayed mentally and physically fit. My maternal grandfather died aged 87 five years ago. Until the age of 86 he was mentally and physically very fit, but fortunately the senility overwhelming him in the last months of his life did not progress so quickly to prevent him from moving around and doing basic things on his own and by the end of his days he understood what was going on around and even sensed the oncoming departure.

My paternal grandparents still live on their own and somehow manage on their own. Their self-sufficiency can be attributed only to the fact they are together (also financially, as their pension benefits are demure).

Grandma is mentally still exceptionally fit. She displays no signs of dementia, is interested, sometimes overly, in what is going around, experiences no problems with memory and despite advanced age, her brain seems unaffected by aging. On the other hand, on account of her problems with spine, several bones and joints, she moves around with aid of walking stick. If she goes out of her flat, she only ambles outside her block of flats; any further journeys require somebody giving her a lift by car.

Grandpa, aged 87, on the other hand is moderately mentally and physically fit. When he feels well, he does the shopping, strolls around the neighbourhood and cleans the house. In terms of general comprehension of surrounding world, his mental fitness is much better than many of his peers, but nowhere as good as of his wife’s. Once in a few months he loses conscience and is taken to a hospital, where he recuperates, but then return home so weak that he stays in bed most of time, recovers for some next month and does well until next such incident strikes him. In 2012 he had 2 such stays in the hospital, in 2013 he landed in the hospital three times, last time in November. Doctors openly say odds of sustainable improvement in his health, owing to his age, are very low.

Polish language lacks the equivalent of ‘grand old age’, the term intuitively referring to a person who lived very long, but in good health. When you speak of far-reaching senility when an elderly person requires as much attention and aid as an infant, it is just an ‘old age'

I am lucky to assert none of my departed and living grandparents has reached that point when the old age is no longer grand. It is that sad moment when an old person no longer recognises their relatives, does not remember their own name, cannot be left at home alone, is bed-ridden, or unable to do the most mundane things on their own.

Aging of societies begins to pose a challenge for humanity, in economic and social terms. Higher percentage population in pension age elicit a need to reshape pension systems. Higher number of senile people and other social changes raise a question how to properly take care of elderly people and give rise to businesses focusing on such services.

For the last decades it has become a paradigm that each next generation will outlive the previous one. A recent study by WHO call this assertion into question and gives evidence current children are less fit than their parents and this will translate into lower life expectancy. No wonder, youngsters fall victim of their lifestyle –  being driven in cars by parents, avoiding sport lessons at school and doing sport in general, spending time in front of computer, rather than on football pitch. Even during breaks between classes at school they stare at their smartphones instead of running around. In Poland I observe things drifting in the wrong direction, in comparison to times when I was in primary school. With some dread my parents recently noticed their parents were much more fit (meaning healthy and active) when they had been in their early sixties then they are…

What to do to grow old and live until ripe old age in good health?
Have a lot of friends and foster friendships?
Be sociable?
Be open-minded and keep track of new developments in the world?
Have hobbies and passions?
Get enough physical exercise?
Do sports regularly?
Avoid using cars when unjustified?
Having medical examinations done regularly?
Refrain smoking and drinking alcohol in small amounts?
Follow a healthy diet?
Keeping work-life balance?
Avoiding stress?
Drawing pleasure from your work?
Extend the list above?

Or do the factors above it really matter? Is it all written in the stars? Or does it run in the genes?

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Cycling and prudence

Winter has set in. This season of the year, apart from ample drawbacks, has also some upsides, such as absence of insects and one group of motorists you should beware of.

Generally, the warmer it gets, the more drivers give up on their cars and swap them for motorcycles and bikes. They share public roads with four-wheel-vehicle users, but often make advantages of smaller width of their vehicles what drives many car drivers, including me, insane.

Don’t get me wrong dear readers*. My intentions are far from decrying cyclists and depriving them of their right to use public roads. Cycling has several merits: keeps people healthy and fit, provides a daily does of physical exercise for those who otherwise would not find time for moving their arses, saves money and environment. But whatever you do, you should do it prudently and not expect others to think and take responsibility for your deeds instead of you, just because you are weaker [than drivers protected by bodyworks of their vehicles] or privileged [cyclists tend to be hailed as such category of road users].

According to Polish traffic regulations, cyclists should attempt to use the road and ride through pavements only when sharing the road with cars is forbidden or impractical. Cyclists are prohibited from moving on motorways, expressway, fast-traffic roads and other roads marked with relevant signage. Cyclists who use pavements should always give way to pedestrians and take off their bikes when they cross a street. This obligation does not apply when a cyclist rides a cycling path, on which they are superior to pedestrians and have right of way over cars if the path crosses the street.

I should not say “law is an ass”, but some regulations do not contribute to increasing safety on the roads. Let’s examine some imperfections of Polish traffic law and some sins committed by cyclists and motorcyclists.

Every candidate for a driver to get a driving license needs to pass a test in order to prove they know traffic regulations. Such requirement prevents people who know little about traffic rules from causing dangerous situations on the roads. A cyclist who is not under 18, subject to the same traffic regulations, as a road user, does not need to prove their knowledge of traffic law. This results in scores of cyclists blissfully ignorant of perils the may cause or they may be caused by car drivers. I opine that any person riding a bike on a public road has its command of basic traffic rules certified. It can take a little hassle and bureaucracy (that can be easily limited – test materials can be available online, test that costs no more than 50 PLN is taken in exam centre, then a cyclist picks up a piece of plastic, if someone has a valid driving license, the procedure is not needed at all), but could prevent many accidents.

The biggest sin of cyclists is taking a busy road, when there is a cycling path running parallel to it. The classic example is ul. Puławska between the boundary of Warsaw and ul. Energetyczna in Piaseczno, the section where speed limit is 70 kmph. The road was widened to 3 lanes and a very decent cycling path along it was built in 2007. Despite dreamt-up infrastructure, some inconsiderate bike enthusiasts refuse to take the cycling path and share the road with cars, risking lives. Is there any excuse for such thoughtless behaviour?

A common sin of single-track vehicle users which winds me up the most, is moving between lanes (to be precise, on lines marking them out) and thus often slaloming between them. This used to be a domain of motorcyclists and scooter-riders, whose engine-propelled vehicles are much faster and thus have edge over slow-moving cars. When weather permits them to get on their machines, even when my car is not in motion I continuously peek at both wing mirrors and if possible move to other end of my lane to let them overtake me in safe distance. The real nightmare crops up when two motorcyclists overtake me from both sides at the same time – this may happen not only on middle, but also on right lane (I tend to use it whenever I can, as the traffic law instructs), when one motor-rider dashes between middle and right lane, while the other moves on the edge of the right one. I then pray there is a few centimetres space on each side of the car…

The warrant to avoid cycling on pavements also lacks common sense to me. Much depends on the situation. The busier the roads and the faster cars move on it, the more advisable it is for a cyclist to give up on taking it. As a cyclist I do use roads, when I feel safe on them and when my common sense tells me I would do more harm than good by choosing a pavement (one nuisance of riding the pavement is having to cross curbs). When there is no pavement, I use roadside, no matter how bumpy it is. A classic example here might be ul. Karczunkowska, where I never share the road with cars, since drivers tend to speed there. Of course I am entitled to use the road, but what’s the value of this entitlement if I end up dead of disabled? When taking the road, I know responsibility for overtaking me safely rests with car drivers. When taking the pavement, I know responsibility for not harming pedestrians rests with me. I prefer to trust myself. The other reason why pavement could be preferable is that accidents on pavements would not be fatal. Have you ever heard of fatalities when a cyclist collided with a pedestrian? Of course, reckless cyclists on pavements can become ‘road hogs’ and the binding traffic law was designed to protect pedestrians. But what protects car drivers from trauma of running down a cyclist clearly violating traffic rules? Surely, after such accident a police could adjudicate the car driver was not guilty, any court would acquit them, but mental trauma could not disappear until the end of their days.

Any constructive strategy?
- Build infrastructure: cycling paths, cycling racks, expand the bike rental schemes.
- Amend the law: put in place regulations that would require road users to be familiar with traffic rules, allow them to use pavements when sharing a road is too precarious
- Punish mercilessly cyclists who slalom between cars or who use road when cycling path is at hand.
- Rely on your common sense, regardless of your role in traffic.

* I actually wrote the post after almost hitting a pinhead on bike on ul. Puławska last Monday. Around 7 a.m. (was still dark) I was driving up ul. Puławska, approaching intersection with ul. Płaskowickiej. I drove some 40 kmph and was on the middle lane. All of a sudden I noticed a cyclist (he had no lights on his bike, nor any flashing elements on himself who unexpectedly decided to veer from right lane to the left. I pushed the brake, peeked in the right wing mirror and without making sure there was no vehicle in the blind spot (fortunately no car was there) I swerved right to avoid running down the cyclist. I was scared out of my wits…

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Are we in 2007?

If I could revisit 2008 in 2011, why not turning back time even more and returning to 2007? If you look at the S&P chart below, showing some period of 12 months from December to November, your guess should be that it dates back to good, pre-crisis times, while in fact it illustrates recent 12 months. No major correction, low volatility and over 30% return over the year is what stockholders on average experienced in 2013.

Such patterns are typical, but for the late expansion phase, in which GDP growth is high, unemployment runs low, inflationary pressures intensify and have to be dampened by monetary tightening. Such chart could also come from a period of early economic recovery, when stock prices bounce back after a dismal bear market. But the bear market actually has not occurred since early 2009. Since late winter of 2009, stock markets have been in the bullish phase, with some major corrections: in spring 2010 when bankruptcy of Greece was a real threat, in summer 2011 when US sovereign rating was downgraded, in spring 2012 (was there a profound reason for the downward movement?), but since then most markets have been rising without a deeper break to take a breath.

Is the incline sustainable?

Every why has a wherefore. Sound bull markets the history has witnessed were grounded in economic fundamentals – economies were expanding, fewer people were jobless, taxpayers paid more in taxes and governments ran nearly balanced budgets, wheels in the economic machines were oiled property and central banks kept interest rates on moderately high level to prevent economies from overheating and preclude inflation from going up. Now the economic growth rate in USA stays below 3%, Western Europe economies are rebounding after deep slowdown. Unemployment rate in the USA is above 7% (which is very higher given the flexibility of labour market there), in the eurozone it is above 10%. To combat adverse economic conditions, tremendously loose monetary policy has been pursued over last five year. Not only have the interest rates in the biggest economies have been cut to near zero, but many central banks have been carrying out quantitative easing programmes, or in plain English, increased money supply in financial system.

Normally when if money supply goes up, everything else held constant, price level should increase by the same rate, to keep the financial system in balance. To many economists’ surprise, ultra-loose monetary policy has not sent overall price level rising. The reason for it is simple – the money intended to prop up the real economy through the financial system have not flowed out of banks and drove up asset prices.

Long ago it has been discovered that low interest rates distort economic decisions. The upshots are now visible on stock and property markets in many countries. House prices in the United States and in Great Britain have seen double-digit increases over the last year. Is this trend sustainable?

I keep asking myself a question: “why so good, if so bad?” Why are the markets red-hot if the economy is still fragile? The only plausible explanation is that market participant are buying the prospects of bright future. But can the next years be rose-coloured, if financial markets rely on drip of cheap money provided by central bankers? Near-zero interest rates cannot be kept forever. One day central bankers will have to bite a bullet on it and what then? The biggest corrections in the recent months on the stock market have been brought about by rumours of QE being tapered or petering out in near future. Central bankers realise the scale of pathological reliance of markets on monetary easing and the difficulty they have to get to grips with is how to pull out of the egregious practice of printing money without harming the markets, as the shock suffered by them would be transmitted into real economy. This dilemma niftily depicts the abnormality of current situation. In ‘normal’ environment raising the cost of credit above certain level just stifles economic activity and dampens enthusiasm of financial markets’ participants. At the present, leaving cost of credit on historically low levels, but only curtailing pumping money may wreak bigger havoc to financial system than unexpected jacking up interest rates by 100 points in a healthy economy.

Quite frequently you can hear of economists arguing, whether the recent unfettered stock market rally is a full-blown bubble, or it only has all makings of a bubble. Federal Reserve has already received a warning. Many indicators (P/E > 25, margin debt, bullish sentiment, low volatility, technical indicators) point at existence of a bubble, while other (business cycle phase, low participation of individuals in the market) may disprove the bubble theory. I only wish to stress the presence of the word “bubble” in the media and in the search engines might be a misleading gauge and should be interpreted with caution.

According to the scenario in the paper linked above, the crash is very likely to occur in 2014. If so, I foresee it will not strike out of the blue, but the show will go on in the ordinary way. At some point stock market reaches its peak, then retreats, attempts of bullish speculators to drive prices up go in vain, then ensues the waterfall (shape of a price chart when prices plummet), then a rebound, then a gradual decline and at the end the tsunami strikes… This pattern is similar to what was observed in 2008 (peak in 2007, retreat, waterfall in early 2008, decline till the early days of September 2008 and then the Lehman earthquake). The first and foremost argument against such scenario is that financial system is not full of toxic assets as it was before the crisis. On the other hand, central banks and government have run out of tools the used to rescue financial institutions and economies in 2008 and 2009. Fhe frail economies cannot endlessly underlie exorbitant stock market valuations and the sooner market participant realise it, the better for everyone.

These musings take me back to the last semester of my studies, when in late 2010 I took a course “Financial crises and financial stability”, delivered by prof. Mieczysław Puławski. I recall well the lecturer mentioning a crisis model devised in 2009, according to which a much more wrathful crisis will hit in 2H2014. Time will tell, if the prophets’ of doom prediction was right.

A few paragraphs above I stated “financial markets rely on drip of cheap money” and laid my thought out very precisely – financial markets, not real economies. Real economies are capable of bearing the burden of higher cost of credit, it may bend them, but will not knock them down and in the long run sound monetary policy will lay foundations for returning to the path of sustainable economic growth.

Compared to developed markets, Poland comes out impressively safe. The property market has been on decline since 2008. In 3Q2013 property prices nudged up, yet it is too early to judge, whether the trend has reversed, or the rebound is just a correction in a downward trend. Unquestionably, the increased demand for properties is the effect of lower interest rates and constricting regulation regarding buyer’s equity for property purchase (min. 5% in 2014, this one hastened many buyers finance the planned transactions with 100% mortgage this year). One swallow does not make a summer and it will be the summer of 2014 when with hindsight the mid-term trend on Polish property market can be observed.

The Polish stock market has been consistently underperforming developed markets. While S&P 500 and DAX indices are well above their 2007 peaks, WIG (broad market total return index) and WIG20 (blue chip price index) are not only below their 2007 peaks, but also below their highs recorded in first half of 2011. Market analyst put it down to insecurity over future of pension system in Poland. If this is indeed the case, it only bears out the reform is a step in the right direction. Despite not beating ever-time records, the stock market in Poland is red-hot, judging by IPO frequency and successfulness. 4Q2013 already saw privatisation of PKP Cargo, which was priced quite high and debuted at absurdly high price. I subscribed for shares of PKP Cargo, took the 19% profit and made off. Recently I subscribed for Newag, just for fun I signed up for 50 shares, 19 PLN each. On Friday I discovered I had been allocated mere 4 shares, as individual investors’ demand surpassed supply over 25 times, which resulted in 93% haircut in share allocation… Demand for Energa among individual investors is also record-high and over-subscription is expected. I will subscribe for those shares as well, hoping to find the greater fool to buy them from it on secondary market. I realise this has become a fad and market sentiment clearly indicates I should rush to escape.

My strategy is to liquidate my stocks portfolio in first weeks of 2014. I last bought stocks in early September 2013, when pension reform announcement triggered a short-lasting sell-off, which turned out to be a superb mid-term investment opportunity. The only reason why I have not pulled out of the stock market recently is the sizeable loss from hapless 2011 which is carried forward into next years. According to Polish tax regulations, no more than 50% of a loss from a specific year may be used as tax shield in any of next following year, so this year (in 2012 my profit was very small) I cannot use it up and sale of securities in 2014 offers a chance to reduce capital gains tax payable. And after I scram, may it all collapse. By all accounts, Poland’s economy will not be severely impacted by the downturn on financial markets and subsequent bear market might offer interesting long-term investment opportunities.