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The Deaccessioning Debate

In these difficult economic times, what's a museum to do? Is an art collection a financial asset or a trust to be held in perpetuity? These questions are being raised by The National Academy in New York's recent sale (or "deaccessioning" in museum lingo) of two important paintings for $15 million to shore up its finances, first reported by Lee Rosenbaum's ArtsJournal blog. The museum's director told The New York Times that it was the only way for the 183-year-old academy, which runs a chronic operating deficit, to survive. The Association of Art Museum Directors censured the Academy and called on its members to suspend any loans of art to the institution. New York lawyer Donn Zaretzky's ArtLaw Blog has become ground zero for a fascinating debate involving art critics, museum directors, financial bloggers and others.
posted by up in the old hotel on Jan 7, 2009 - 40 comments

All predictions are wrong. Or are they?

Every year the Strategy Team at Saxo Bank, a Danish virtual bank, publishes a list of ten black swan class market events. Some of the more dramatic possibilities Saxo advance for 2009: crude trading down to $25 a barrel causing severe social unrest in Iran, the S&P 500 falling to 500, Chinese GDP approaching zero and several member states dropping the Euro. The complete 2009 list is here and for completeness their 2008 [ .pdf ] , 2007 [ .pdf ] and 2006 lists [ .pdf ] are also available. [more inside]
posted by Mutant on Jan 7, 2009 - 32 comments

The bubble to end all bubbles?

The cover of a major financial publication warns: If you're holding U.S. Treasuries, GET OUT NOW! [more inside]
posted by up in the old hotel on Jan 5, 2009 - 74 comments

Why Wall Street Always Blows It

Why Wall Street Always Blows It, and why we're always to blame, as told by banished securities analyst Henry Blodget.
posted by SeizeTheDay on Dec 30, 2008 - 37 comments

The Price of Anarchy

Braess' paradox and the price of anarchy [PDF]: "We had three tunnels in the city and one needed to be shut down. Bizarrely, we found that car volumes dropped. ... We discovered it was a case of Braess' paradox, which says that by taking away space in an urban area you can actually increase the flow of traffic, and, by implication, by adding extra capacity to a road network you can reduce overall performance." [more inside]
posted by parudox on Dec 27, 2008 - 15 comments

Why I Hate Christmas

"Modern Christmas is like primitive Keynesianism, a short-run-oriented economic experiment that has been tried and found wanting." Economist James S. Henry weighs in on "Why the Grinch has it right."
posted by nasreddin on Dec 24, 2008 - 58 comments

Just how long can that tail be?

10 out of 13 million tracks available for purchase online didn't sell a single copy. Jut how Long can that Tail be, after all? Is the length of the tail mentioned in the article down to piracy or the state of the music industry as a whole? Is it possible to make a profit or break even on a niche website based on sales alone, and not on advertising revenue?
posted by Grrlscout on Dec 23, 2008 - 56 comments

Blow-by-blow of Wachovia's Demise

A blow-by-blow analysis of Wachovia's demise, as told by the bank's local paper, The Charlotte Observer.
posted by SeizeTheDay on Dec 21, 2008 - 16 comments

The Grand Experiment

History Repeats Itself in Different Hues -- a readable Q&A data dump comparing the economics and policy responses of 1990s Japan and current events
posted by troy on Dec 19, 2008 - 6 comments

your leisure is my pleasure

Idle Theory: Life Does The Least
posted by kliuless on Dec 6, 2008 - 28 comments

What is 10 or 20 Trillion US dollars between friends?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the award-winning book The Black Swan, (previously), was interviewed recently by Charlie Rose: A conversation about economics with Nassim Taleb (as well as Time Magazine.) Taleb is more pessimistic than Nouriel Roubini, (previously, previously) who thinks that the total sum for this current global meltdown may be somewhere between 10-20 Trillion US dollars.
posted by gen on Dec 5, 2008 - 19 comments

Can We Cure the Health Care Crisis?

Search for an Rx - We asked Johns Hopkins administrators, physicians, and researchers about the health of a system Americans rely on to keep them healthy. Afterall, an ounce of prevention... [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Dec 3, 2008 - 15 comments

"a story of great potential overwhelmed by a genius for acts of pointless economic self-destruction"

People with a keen strategic sense maintain a well-diversified hoard of coins and painstakingly build alliances with local shopkeepers or bank tellers, conspicuously proffering coins for one purchase or deposit in the hopes of being indulged when they're short of change at some point in the future. Argentina's coinage problem. [more inside]
posted by cortex on Dec 3, 2008 - 19 comments

Tanta Vive!

The Compleat ÜberNerd: a fascinating series of blog entries detailing the nitty-gritty behind the mortgage industry by Calculated Risk's "Tanta." If you're curious about automated underwriting systems or the ins and outs of mortgage servicing or if you just enjoy some Mortgage Pig Excel art, Tanta was the blogger for you. Tanta, otherwise known as Doris Dungey, passed away on Sunday morning (NYT obit, CR obit).
posted by mullacc on Dec 1, 2008 - 15 comments

The Power of Ideas

What to Do. 2008 Nobel Laureate in Economics Paul Krugman on what to do about the economic crisis. [Via]
posted by homunculus on Nov 30, 2008 - 67 comments

Depression 2009

Depression 2009: What would it look like? "Lines at the ER, a television boom, emptying suburbs. A catastrophic economic downturn would feel nothing like the last one." [Via]
posted by homunculus on Nov 21, 2008 - 48 comments

"... first by inflation and then by deflation, ..."

Tangible evidence of deflation? The prices of commodities, houses and a wide range of consumer goods have collapsed, with observers predicting continued declines. While many point back to The Great Depression as an example of damaging deflation, the recession of 1920-1921, a frequently overlooked period in economic history, is perhaps the best example we've got of a deflationary wave similar to what might now taking place. [more inside]
posted by Mutant on Nov 20, 2008 - 92 comments

The psychology of cons

How to Run a Con. A neuroeconomist looks at the Pigeon Drop. [Via]
posted by homunculus on Nov 15, 2008 - 49 comments

Money for nothing: a new era of zero interest rates?

The Fed cut 100 bps. BOE cut 150 bps. ECB cut 50 bps. India, Vietnam, The Czech Republic, Switzerland, Denmark, South Korea and other nations have all cut interest rates in recent weeks, with many Central Banks cutting more than once. The G20 is now discussing the possibility of further, coordinated interest rate cuts. As interest rates globally plummet, we are observing what some analysts are calling "The Race to Zero". [more inside]
posted by Mutant on Nov 12, 2008 - 86 comments

Adam Smith in Beijing

Adam Smith in Beijing Embedded Flash film 1hr59mins "Is US power in decline? What are we to make of the rise of China? Will a possible equalization of North-South relations herald a more brutal capitalism or a better world? Giovanni Arrighi, Joel Andreas, and David Harvey give their perspectives in this forum, for a discussion of Arrighi's 2007 book Adam Smith in Beijing. The event, filmed in Baltimore, MD, in March of 2008, was organized by the Red Emma's collective."
posted by Abiezer on Nov 9, 2008 - 10 comments

Planet Finance

Wall Street Lays Another Egg. "Not so long ago, the dollar stood for a sum of gold, and bankers knew the people they lent to. The author charts the emergence of an abstract, even absurd world—call it Planet Finance—where mathematical models ignored both history and human nature, and value had no meaning."
posted by homunculus on Nov 7, 2008 - 63 comments

Building a real financial system

The origins of central banking or, perhaps, central planning[1,2] and a defense of fiat currency[3] in the information age. [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Nov 2, 2008 - 39 comments

The most obscure but perhaps the most important economic indicator we've got

How best to take the pulse of the global economy? While market driven rates such as LIBOR or US Government T-Bills reveal the state of fixed income and Credit Default Swaps tell the observer much about possible default rates, many analysts prefer a more basal view. The Baltic Dry Index is one such indicator. [more inside]
posted by Mutant on Oct 31, 2008 - 27 comments

In praise of small banks

The nine biggest US banks aren't using $125 billion in federal bailout money to make loans. They're going to use taxpayer dollars to buy other banks. [more inside]
posted by up in the old hotel on Oct 30, 2008 - 80 comments

You don't really own the shares you think you own

All the stocks and bonds you think you own are actually owned by a company you've probably never heard of, a company owned by the same people who own the US Federal Reserve. [more inside]
posted by Mutant on Oct 24, 2008 - 58 comments

Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

Friedman under attack More than 100 faculty at the University of Chicago, where Milton Friedman won the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics, are trying to stop the university from putting Mr. Friedman's name on a $200-million (U.S.) research centre. The opponents argue that the Milton Friedman Institute would compromise the academic integrity of the university and serve as a monument to Mr. Friedman's world outlook, which they say has largely been discredited. [more inside]
posted by KokuRyu on Oct 21, 2008 - 31 comments

The Vital Triangle: China, the United States, and the Middle East

"The Vital Triangle: China, the United States, and the Middle East"- seeking to understand the effects of the China-Middle East relationship on the United States, the U.S. Middle East relationship on China, and the Sino-American relationship on the Middle East. Book excerpts (Chapter 1) (Chapter 3). Interview with Jon Alterman, co-author. Via the very useful SUSRIS.
posted by Burhanistan on Oct 20, 2008 - 4 comments

Andrew Lahde's goodbye letter

Retiring hedge fund manager Andrew Lahde: "All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America."
posted by finite on Oct 17, 2008 - 37 comments

The Nobel Prize is Shrill

"...For his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity," the 2008 Nobel Prize in economics has been awarded to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
posted by XQUZYPHYR on Oct 13, 2008 - 94 comments

Essential Credit Crunch Reading

Afraid to read the daily news? Need some broader perspective on The Credit Crunch? There are lots of different ideas by lots of different authors floating about ... [more inside]
posted by Mutant on Oct 13, 2008 - 34 comments

Another potentially huge settlement day for CDS contracts ...

Credit Default Swaps (CDS) are derivative instruments providing the purchaser with protection against default on an underlying financial asset. When Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac technically defaulted on September 7th there was much speculation that the CDS market would collapse as a result of protection being invoked on $1.4 trillion dollars worth of debt. On October 6th these derivative contracts settled, and the CDS market didn't collapse with recovery rates of 92% being observed. Today CDS contracts protecting against the default of Lehman Brothers settle. The problem? Because industry lacks a central clearinghouse for these derivatives, nobody is really sure how many CDS contracts were written either by Lehman or by other banks providing protection against a Lehman default. Next on the list are CDS' covering Washington Mutual, which are due to settle October 23rd.

Meanwhile efforts to create a clearing house continue, as some folks speculate that the settlement of Credit Default Swaps is a major reason why banks are hoarding cash.
posted by Mutant on Oct 10, 2008 - 155 comments

Steamcreditcrunch

A housing boom and bust, interbank lending rates reaching record highs, people losing faith in complex financial instruments, a stock market crash. We've seen it all before... The Great Depression of 1929? No, the Panic of 1837...
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Oct 3, 2008 - 33 comments

Mackerel Economics in Prison Leads to Appreciation for Oily Fillets - Wall Street Journal

As dollar flounders, inmates stack mackerel
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 on Oct 2, 2008 - 70 comments

Life under Hyperinflation

Think you've got problems caused by economic meltdown? "Yesterday I had a balance in my account of $2,000 (at old value that is 20 trillion dollars / $20,000,000,000,000.00). This account is dormant, untouched for months. This morning I find I owe the bank $500,000 in service fees for one month’s bank charges to hold my $2,000. This is no joke." This is life in Zimbabwe under hyperinflation. [more inside]
posted by contessa on Oct 2, 2008 - 13 comments

This is not your FDIC. This is the Rich White Man's FDIC.

A private FDIC?

The Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service, or CDARS, is a way to conveniently spread bank accounts across multiple banks. CDARS, run by privately held Promontory Interfinancial Network, offers its customers up to $50 million of deposit insurance, or exactly 500 times single account limit mandated by the FDIC. Promontory does this by arranging to distribute client funds nationwide in $100K increments to over 2,300 banks. Promontory is nothing if not well connected: while founders Mark Jacobsen previously served as Chief of Staff at the FDIC, co-founders Alan Blinder was Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve and Eugene Ludwig was Comptroller of the Currency, several former members of the FDIC currently serve on Promotory's board.

Not surprisingly, some folks are openly critical of Promotory, some going so far as to state "It undermines a lot of the safeguards around the FDIC deposit fund."
posted by Mutant on Sep 26, 2008 - 64 comments

Saturday night poker night is about to get a lot more interesting ...

Hedge Funds employ many different strategies to make money. There are long/short funds, event driven funds, emerging markets funds [.pdf], funds looking to profit from global macroeconomic trends and a large number of funds employing a wide range of arbitrage techniques to make money.

But these techniques are the tried and the true. As both assets under management and market turmoil have grown significantly, hedge funds are rapidly branching out into domains far, far detached from finance: art, litigation funding and now even poker.
posted by Mutant on Sep 22, 2008 - 44 comments

Best pals in the NYT break-room

The Wall Street bailout proposal has prompted Bill Kristol and Paul Krugman to write identically-minded columns opposing the plan.
posted by pjenks on Sep 22, 2008 - 194 comments

Consider my opinion changed.

Overcoming Bias [via]
posted by fantabulous timewaster on Sep 10, 2008 - 26 comments

Banking shares: New Day or False Dawn?

A bottom for banking? Buying or selling shares in a company one manages - insider trading - is legal in The United States, provided the relevant forms are filed with The SEC. This information is then made available to the general public via EDGAR, Sec Form 4, or high level aggregators. Investors scour web sites for such filings, as purchases or sales of a companies shares by insiders are public evidence of managements private opinions regarding the future prospects of the firm they are running.

Even before yesterdays relief rally insider buying in banking shares hit a two decade high. So does this surge in buying indicate the worst is over in banking? When trading its best to pay close attention to a broad range of signals, because sometimes even the insiders get it wrong.
posted by Mutant on Sep 9, 2008 - 23 comments

Two short courses

A Short Course In Behavioral Economics, an "Edge Master Class" from Richard Thaler and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman. [more inside]
posted by AceRock on Sep 8, 2008 - 13 comments

Those markets? Well, it seems they work like they are supposed to ...

Are funds calling a bottom to the US housing market? Even as house price declines are beginning to slow, home sales may have stablised and resales look healthy, big money - $5B here, $3B there, over there $2B and lots and lots of smaller amounts - is being deployed to take housing assets off banks balance sheets.

Meanwhile, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are actually booking the biggest profits on new mortgages since 1998. It ain't over 'til it's over, but in the markets you take what you can get.
posted by Mutant on Aug 28, 2008 - 39 comments

Larry Summers lays it out for the next President

"There are half a dozen [economic] issues today, each one of which is as important as the most important issue at the beginning of most presidential terms." Larry Summers became so well-known during his brief and contentious tenure as President of Harvard that it's easy to forget about his real job, as a much-lauded academic economist with a history of real-world service at the World Bank and in the Clinton Administration. In this month's Harvard Magazine, he summarizes his view of the economy (grim) and what the next president is going to have to do about it (a lot.)
posted by escabeche on Aug 26, 2008 - 41 comments

"A national debt will be to us a national blessing." Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of Treasury,1780

Even as I.O.U.S.A, a documentary looking at the United States' $53T national debt, is to be shown at both the Democratic and Republican conventions, economists are beginning to openly discuss the previously unthinkable - should America should default on some or perhaps all it's obligations? [more inside]
posted by Mutant on Aug 26, 2008 - 84 comments

The Material Girl is now a tangible investment

Follow the money: for the past year, the big trade was short bank stocks, and use the cash to go long oil. Massively profitable, but now that trade is unwinding. So where is the big money being invested now? Lots of places: diamonds, fine art, guitars, and Madonna.
posted by Mutant on Aug 20, 2008 - 36 comments

Our Phony Economy.

Our Phony Economy. [more inside]
posted by chunking express on Aug 12, 2008 - 102 comments

The Changing Face of the Inner City

Are you a young middle-class creative type (probably white) who has chosen to live in an urban neighborhood that your parents would have shunned? Have the families that formerly lived in your neighborhood (probably not white) been pushed out by soaring rents and real-estate prices to the city fringes or suburbs? The New Republic on demographic inversion.
posted by digaman on Aug 2, 2008 - 64 comments

Chinese Superpower? Maybe, maybe not.

The algae problem was taken care of. But the smog is the worst it's been in several months. All kidding aside, is China the next world superpower? Maybe, maybe not. [more inside]
posted by Cool Papa Bell on Jul 28, 2008 - 68 comments

A whole new China

A couple recent documentaries have accurately shown how China is changing and developing at lightning speed. The People's Republic of Capitalism speaks mainly of China's all-consuming economic growth and its ramifications. I was riveted by Frontline's Young and Restless in China and Frontline World: Jesus in China. These show the struggles of the Chinese to keep up with the changes, deal with their hypocritical government and define their beliefs in a society still riddled with corruption.
posted by wundermint on Jul 17, 2008 - 32 comments

There Could Be Blood

Andy Grove on Our Electric Future - "Energy independence [viz.] is the wrong goal. Here is a plan Americans can stick to." Perhaps some infrastructure spending1,2 is in order? [etc., &c., cf.] [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jul 15, 2008 - 14 comments

While this is timely information bank failures are normal part of life.

Worried about bank failures? First step: check if your bank is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). If so, then your first $100K is insured against loss so no worries.

Got more than $100K? Well then, you'd better speak with EDIE. [more inside]
posted by Mutant on Jul 14, 2008 - 60 comments

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