The only time attendees here at the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference (SALT) got viscerally excited was when Karl Rove, former senior advisor to President George W. Bush, slammed president Obama's economic policies.

And that is telling.

Most of the time, 1,200 of the world's financial elite who are here are staid and stoic. Even when the band Maroon 5 performed last night, few people danced.

These aren't personal snipes. The reason most of these people act like deer in headlights is because of market fear and loathing.

John Burbank, founder of Passport Capital, a hedge fund, believes the world is in for another recession- - a bad one.

The sovereign debt crisis plaguing Euroe if not further afar and at home is freezing trades and jimmying others.

Robert Koenigsberger, managing partner of Gramercy Partners, says it's often difficult to know how to correlate trades. "It's a really difficult environment," he says.

Politics, t0o, is infecting trading strategies. Spain will likely go through sevreal leaderships before it straightens out. Ditto with Greece. Who knows what direction France is heading in with Francois Hollande now in office. Even the U.S. presidency is looking to be evenly divided.

"It'll be close," admits former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Social issues such as climate change are taking a backseat to politics and the economy, too.