Imagine you could invest in the stock market last week, with perfect knowledge of how it will move this week. 25 year old Frenchman Max-Hervé George does not need a Delorean, he is the beneficiary of a very unusual 8000 euro life insurance policy that lets him do just that. He could be a billionaire by the end of this decade and, by the end of the next, his contract would be worth more than the insurance company which stands behind it, Aviva France.
The betting market in Las Vegas isn’t much different from Wall Street. Fed by rumor, speculation and greed, teams, like investments, can grow hot or cold for no good reason. Moving lines is remarkably similar to market bubbles. Walters insists that “[b]etting on a ball game is identical to betting on Wall Street.” Walters even claims that he has lost a lot of money in the markets and thinks the Wall Street “hustle” is far more dangerous than that in Las Vegas. It should be no surprise then that many Wall Streeters have gambling histories, most prominently Ed Thorp. For more information, read Scott Patterson’s excellent book, The Quants. I even know a few.Gaming The System by Robert P. Seawright [more inside]
Let Us Face the Future - "All parties pay lip service to the idea of jobs for all. All parties are ready to promise to achieve that end by keeping up the national purchasing power and controlling changes in the national expenditure through Government action. Where agreement ceases is in the degree of control of private industry that is necessary to achieve the desired end. In hard fact, the success of a full employment programme will certainly turn upon the firmness and success with which the Government fits into that programme the investment and development policies of private as well as public industry." [more inside]
The End of Banking: Money, Credit, and the Digital Revolution - "Unregulated banking with access to government guarantees is an enticing business model. It offers the profits of excessive risk-taking in good times, and allows passing on the inevitable losses to taxpayers in bad times." [more inside]
The financial wisdom of Johnny Rotten. Former Sex Pistol John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) discusses spending, saving, investment, debt, and reveals the "best thing [he] ever bought." Unsurprisingly he's a bit cynical on celebrity charity, but it makes him "happy" when people spend their money on him.
The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase's Worst Nightmare. "Meet the woman JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking." [more inside]
(until wednesday). Yes, it's election day in the USA on Tuesday 4th November, with a projected cost of $3.67 billion. "During this midterm election year, all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested; along with 38 state and territorial governorships, 46 state legislatures (except Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia), four territorial legislatures and numerous state and local races." The betting markets currently have the Republicans significant favorites to take the Senate and overwhelming favorites to take the House. FiveThirtyEight indicates the same, but with many close Gubernatorial races. Electoral-vote.com currently project the senate at Dem 48, Ties 1, GOP 51. [more inside]
"Enrique Martinez didn't like chocolate, but he was eating as many as 10 pieces a day, drinking chocolate protein shakes and rubbing a chocolate-based skin cream on his face. It was expensive chocolate, too. Martinez and his wife, Michelle, were going through $2,000 in chocolate a month."
Advice on how to survive late capitalism: "Your life is sold to serve an economy that does not serve your life. You don’t seem to be entertained, Bank-robbin’; your white-hot rage festers. It probably doesn’t help that you live in Brooklyn—this place where in the last ten years rent has spiked 77 percent while real median income has dropped, where the rich (the top 10 percent of earners who, as is well known, control 80 percent of the wealth) and their children live right on top of some of the worst poverty known to this country, while 20 percent of Brooklynites survive somehow below the poverty level, such that the widening income and wealth gap becomes achingly visible here. I could advise you to leave Brooklyn. But I don’t want you to leave Brooklyn."
In 2000, Argentina defaulted on international debt, and then renegotiated with most of its bondholders. Some of the rest of the bonds were snapped up by hedge funds at deep discounts. Recently a U.S. district court judge, Thomas Griesa, ruled that Argentina couldn't pay the renegotiating bondholders -- and no bank or other agent could help it pay them -- without paying the hedge funds, too, in full. The 2nd circuit affirmed, the Supreme Court denied appeal, and the ruling could have a major impact on the future of sovereign debt and on the role of the U.S. as a world financial center. If a solution is not found, Argentina will default again today.
Early in 1994, Christie and Schultz published "Why do NASDAQ Market Makers Avoid Odd-Eighth Quotes?" noting that although the minimum price variation was an eighth of a dollar, the vast majority of quotes and executions occurred on quarters of a dollar. Later the same year, Christie, Harris, and Schultz published "Why did NASDAQ Market Makers Stop Avoiding Odd-Eighths Quotes?" with the following abstract: "On May 26 and 27, 1994 several national newspapers reported the findings of Christie and Schultz (1994) who cannot reject the hypothesis that market makers of active NASDAQ stocks implicitly colluded to maintain spreads of at least $0.25 by avoiding odd-eighth quotes. On May 27, dealers in Amgen, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft sharply increased their use of odd-eighth quotes, and mean inside and effective spreads fell nearly 50 percent. This pattern was repeated for Apple Computer the following trading day. Using individual dealer quotes for Apple and Microsoft, we find that virtually all dealers moved in unison to adopt odd-eighth quotes."
The Vanished Grandeur Of Accounting, in which Jacob Soll argues that it was the Dutch, and certainly not the Venetians or Florentines who are responsible for the spread of that moral and mathematical revolution: double-entry accounting. [more inside]
The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States (PDF); prospectus (PDF); press coverage (YT) - "The signature effects of human-induced climate change—rising seas, increased damage from storm surge, more frequent bouts of extreme heat—all have specific, measurable impacts on our nation's current assets and ongoing economic activity. [The report] uses a standard risk-assessment approach to determine the range of potential consequences for each region of the U.S.—as well as for selected sectors of the economy—if we continue on our current path..." [more inside]
It's Time For a Hard Bitcoin Fork. "A Bitcoin mining pool, called GHash and operated by an anonymous entity called CEX.io, just reached 51% of total network mining power today. Bitcoin is no longer decentralized. GHash can control Bitcoin transactions."
The personal price of exposing financial wrongdoing can be devastating. Report for The Financial Times by William D Cohan, including interviews with whistleblowers formerly employed at Lehman Brothers, Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase.
WWE CEO is no longer a billionaire, Forbes reports. His attempts to generate new revenue by reshaping the way fans consume his product have "imploded", according to Business Insider. Meanwhile, Paul Levesque, aka Triple H, strives to rebuild WWE from within.
Today, the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 opinion in McCutcheon v FEC.
The Government has a strong interest, no less critical to our democratic system, in combatting corruption and its appearance. We have, however, held that this interest must be limited to a specific kind of corruption—quid pro quo corruption—in order to ensure that the Government's efforts do not have the effect of restricting the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them. For the reasons set forth, we conclude that the aggregate limits on contributions do not further the only governmental interest this Court accepted as legitimate in Buckley. They instead intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise “the most fundamental First Amendment activities.” Buckley, 424 U. S., at 14. The judgment of the District Court is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings. It is so ordered.The Supreme Court strikes down provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 ("BCRA") as an unjustified intrusion on First Amendment rights. The link also includes the concurrence of Justice Thomas and a dissent by Justice Breyer. [more inside]
It used to be that when his trading screens showed 10,000 shares of Intel offered at $22 a share, it meant that he could buy 10,000 shares of Intel for $22 a share. He had only to push a button. By the spring of 2007, however, when he pushed the button to complete a trade, the offers would vanish. In his seven years as a trader, he had always been able to look at the screens on his desk and see the stock market. Now the market as it appeared on his screens was an illusion.In an excerpt/adaption of his new book Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, Michael Lewis follows Brad Katsuyama from uncovering evidence of high-speed electronic front-running to the founding of the IEX exchange intended to discourage it. The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street (SLNYT).
Free Money for Everyone - "A wacky-sounding idea with surprisingly conservative roots may be our best hope for escaping endless, grinding economic stagnation." (via) [more inside]
Why do some banking systems never have crises and some have them all the time? Our system is Fragile by Design, the title of a new book by Calomiris and Haber. (The first chapter can be read here.) This essay lays out the argument, as does this PowerPoint. [more inside]
The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks' Most Devious Scam Yet. "Banks are no longer just financing heavy industry. They are actually buying it up and inventing bigger, bolder and scarier scams than ever." This is the latest and last article for Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi, who is moving on to join First Look Media.
There is much talk today of a financial and economic crisis comparable to the 1930s. With the threat of a currency war and the euro’s collapse looming, the specter of the Great Depression’s bloody aftermath has returned with a vengeance. Several versions of how to make human beings and build society co-existed during the Cold War, when much of the world won independence from colonial empire. Yet, discussion of humanity’s growing interdependence is today limited to a one-world capitalism driven by finance. What have anthropologists to say about that? It would seem very little. But a positive case can be made for the discipline’s contribution to public debate. We make such a case here. We review recent developments in the anthropology of money and finance, listing its achievements, shortcomings and prospects, while referring back to the discipline’s founders a century ago. Economic anthropologists have tended to restrict themselves to niche fields and marginal debates since the 1960s. We hope to reverse this trend by focusing on money’s role in shaping global society and bringing world history into a more active dialogue with ethnography.Money and finance: For an anthropology of globalization by Keith Hart and Horacio Ortiz
In 2014, Bitcoin (BTC) has become established as increasingly "real" money with government regulatory interest, law enforcement, and growing acceptance in commerce, but also as the reserve cryptocurrency for hundreds of "altcoins," making them also convertible to legacy money. Foremost among these is Litecoin (LTC), which introduced the scrypt hashing algorithm to cryptocurrency, democratizing coin mining by being best suited to common GPUs rather than Bitcoin's dedicated mining equipment. Recently donated LTC paid for a forest in Madagascar. Peercoin (PPC), next in prominence, introduces "proof of stake" where less energy is spent mining and existing coins pay interest. Dogecoin (DOGE), a fork of Litecoin (previously covered on Metafilter), continues heading to the moon, with more transactions than all other coins combined, thriving markets in digital goods, tipbots, an upcoming party in NYC's Bitcoin Center on Wall Street, much charity, and the recent announcement that new Dogecoins will be generated indefinitely. A selection of other foremost and interesting cryptocurrencies is within. [more inside]
An unpublished interview with novelist Sol Yurick by BLDGBLOG's Geoff Manaugh. "[S]uppose we think of The Iliad as one big trade war. Troy, as you know, sat on the route into the Black Sea, which means it commanded the whole hinterland where people like the Greeks and the Trojans did trading. The Trojan War was a trade war." (previously on the 2013 passing of the writer of The Warriors) [more inside]
There is another bubble. Before it's burned, Coal, Oil and Gas sit for years on the balance sheets of private (and national) resource companies, as "known reserve" assets. Assets that, someday, will become revenues. Or will they? And if they won't, what will the balance sheets of ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Petrochina, and Gazprom actually look like? [more inside]
Installed solar capacity is growing by leaps and bounds, led by Walmart and Apple, and helped by bonds backed by solar power payments,[*] which have sent industry stocks soaring, even as molten salt and new battery technologies come on line to generate storage for use when the sun doesn't shine. Of course we could always go to geostationary orbit -- or the moon -- as well we may (if politics allow it) as thirst from the developing world grows beyond the earth's carrying capacity. [more inside]
This shift in how companies are governed and raise money is bringing with it a structural change in American capitalism. That should be a matter of great debate. Are these new businesses, with their ability to circumvent rules that apply to conventional public companies, merely adroit exploiters of loopholes for the benefit of a plutocratic few? Or do they reflect the adaptability on which America’s vitality has always been based? - Rise of the distorporation - how changes in the way companies are financed and managed is changing the wealth distribution of America.
The Prophet: Meet Dave Ramsey, the most important personal finance guru in America. There's probably no better way to learn about the financial lives of individual Americans than to spend a few hours listening to The Dave Ramsey Show, which airs in every major media market in the United States...Listen long enough and you realize you are hearing the raw, unfiltered tragedy of the economic plagues facing 21st-century America. [via]
Matt Levine writes in the Wall Street Journal: Morgan Stanley Now Obeying Rules, Reducing Risks, Eating Cupcakes
So while of course it's possible that this is just next-level perception manipulation and I've fallen for it -- that Morgan Stanley has found a novel way to take on immense amounts of complex risk and hide it behind an army of retail brokers and a layer of cream-cheese frosting -- I think that this story is what it appears to be. Morgan Stanley seems to be de-risking by cutting back on risky activities, and responding to new regulations by obeying them.On the New Wall Street, Boring Is Better [more inside]
In New York, there are at least six data centers you need to collocate in to be competitive in equities. An in-depth look at the insanity behind modern high-frequency trading, where the speed of light is the only limit.
"... and so I took an economics course and I loved it," during a phone interview in the early morning today. Likewise, conversations with Robert Shiller and Lars Peter Hansen, shortly after the 2013 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded jointly to them for their academic contributions to the field of asset pricing. UChicago News, Yale News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Bloomberg report. [more inside]
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio actually makes a case against austerity and for redistribution, but also for money printing (and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public and private investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)... [more inside]
PayPal locked down the developer’s account, and said it could only have 50% of the funds. The rest would be released as development continued, based on PayPal’s assessment of the situation. PayPal was, essentially, going to become a producer going forward. Crowdfunding's Secret Enemy is PayPal
There have been a few misconceptions about the Bowie securitizations over the years. I’ll try to describe, in relatively plain English, what happened.
Banks usually reserve the right to change the rules or rates for credit cards they issue at any time, and the only notice given is buried in a long legal document. Russian Dmitry Argarkov turned this on its head: After he received a junk-mail credit card offer, he modified the document to include terms ridiculously in his favor and sent it back. The bank signed and certified it without looking at it, and sent him a credit card. [more inside]
As Andrew Haldane, director of stability at the Bank of England, put it in a historical overview a few years ago, ‘there is one key difference between the situation today and that in the Middle Ages. Then, the biggest risk to the banks was from the sovereign. Today, perhaps the biggest risk to the sovereign comes from the banks. Causality has reversed.’ Yes, it has: and the sovereign at risk is us. The reason for that is that in the UK bank assets are 492 per cent of GDP. In plain English, our banks are five times bigger than our entire economy. (When the Icelandic and Cypriot banking systems collapsed the respective figures were 880 and 700 per cent.) We know from the events of 2008 and subsequently that the financial sector, indeed the whole world economy, is in an inherently unstable condition. Put the size together with the instability, and we are facing a danger that is no less real for not being on the front page this exact second. This has to be fixed, and it has to be fixed soon, and nothing about fixing it is easy.- "Let's Consider Kate," John Lanchester, London Review of Books (via)
The Lonely Redemption Of Sandy Lewis
“The complicity on Wall Street is sickness!” Mr. Lewis says. He fixes you with his laser stare. “If you think the big firms are being honest” — his tone slides streetwise — “well, sweetheart, go think something else!” The temptation is to dismiss Mr. Lewis, 73, as a crank, except he once ruled as an eccentric genius of arbitrage, with a preternatural feel for the tectonic movements of the markets. He has railed for decades about venalities now on daily display. Rude truth is his currency.[more inside]
The last mystery of the financial crisis. It's long been suspected that ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's helped trigger the meltdown. A new trove of embarrassing documents shows how they did it. by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone.
Lee Buchheit, fairy godmother to finance ministers in distress
Lee Buchheit, a lawyer at US firm Cleary Gottlieb, has been present at all the major debt crises of the past three decades. His reputation among investors is as a fearsome and aggressive litigator, but finance ministers in distress see him as something of a fairy godmother.[more inside]
Bloomerg compiles a list of the 250 highest CEO-to-employee-pay ratios, estimated based on publicly available information. They also publish any rebuttals issued by those companies.
The problem is that cinema, as I define it and as something that inspired me, is under assault by the studios and, from what I can tell, with the full support of the audience. The reasons for this, in my opinion, are more economic than philosophical, but when you add an ample amount of fear and lack of vision and a lack of leadership you’ve got a trajectory that is pretty difficult to reverse. - "Retired" director Steven Soderbergh speaks to the San Francisco International Film Festival about the state of cinema - (summary, full audio at bottom of page 2)
Wall Street begins playing again with the same matches that burned the economy in 2008 From the New York Times: "The banks that created risky amalgams of mortgages and loans during the boom — the kind that went so wrong during the bust — are busily reviving the same types of investments that many thought were gone for good. Once more, arcane-sounding financial products like collateralized debt obligations are being minted on Wall Street. " (View article on a single page) [more inside]
"Gold's crash this weekend is, as Oprah might say, a teachable moment. Crashes like this are a good way to find out how markets work. It's like a game of financial Clue, a way to keep sharp your skills of deduction. You don't have to be a stock investor or a math whiz to figure it out, either – you just have to have a good grasp of news and human psychology." - the Guardian on this week's crash in gold commodity prices.
"When we first started working on Dustforce, it was frustrating to not be able to find much data about whether indie game development is a realistic thing to do with your life." Hitbox Team helps remedy that for future designers in this article about the finances and sales of their game, Dustforce.
"Trusting your child with someone else is one of the hardest things that a parent has to do — and in the United States, it’s harder still, because American day care is a mess. About 8.2 million kids—about 40 percent of children under five — spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent. Most of them are in centers, although a sizable minority attend home day cares.... In other countries, such services are subsidized and well-regulated. In the United States, despite the fact that work and family life has changed profoundly in recent decades, we lack anything resembling an actual child care system. Excellent day cares are available, of course, if you have the money to pay for them and the luck to secure a spot. But the overall quality is wildly uneven and barely monitored, and at the lower end, it’s Dickensian."
"Maybe it's a sore point: your field should have an answer (people think you do) but there isn't one yet. Perhaps it's simple to pose but hard to answer. Or it's a question that belies a deep misunderstanding: the best answer is to question the question."
Economists and the theory of politics - "why unions were often well worth any deadweight cost" [more inside]