Secret and Lies of the Bailout. "The federal rescue of Wall Street didn’t fix the economy – it created a permanent bailout state based on a Ponzi-like confidence scheme. And the worst may be yet to come." [Via]
Garth Turner, the former politician and now cranky (but funny and more or less accurate) blogger opines on real estate and the economy for 2013.
What's Going On In Japan? "Really Japan is quite a remarkable case, since neither fiscal nor monetary policy seems to be working to achieve the anticipated results. This year Japan will have a fiscal deficit of around 10% of GDP and gross government debt will hit 235% of GDP, yet the country is still struggling to find growth. Instead of reiterating old dogmas (whether they come from Keynes or from Hayek) more people should be asking themselves what is happening here. This is not a simple repetition of something which was first time tragedy and is now second time tragedy, it is something new, and could well be a harbinger for more that is to come, elsewhere. Oh, why oh why are economists not more curious?" [more inside]
"HS Dent, an economic forecasting firm, compiled Census data [PDF] on spending behavior and presented them as a series of demand curves... The curves measure average annual expenditure for a given product over the age of the consumer." [more inside]
The African King With A Multi-Billion Dollar Empire RBH functions as a communitybased investment company whose primary investment aim is to generate the income required for the funding of sustainable projects. Income generated from RBH’s commercial interests is invested in infrastructural development, as well as in the members of the Nation itself. Over the past decade, more than R4 billion ($475 million) has been spent on roads, utilities, schools, clinics and other public amenities. This has benefited not only the Bafokeng, but other people living in the North West Province of South Africa, the area which the RBN calls home.
It's the splashing, not the popping. What if American student debt is just too profitable and secure to admit any systemic reform? An interesting and gloomy argument against the higher education bubble theory. [more inside]
"We have little trouble recognizing that a chess grandmaster’s victory over a novice is skill, as well as assuming that Paul the octopus’s ability to predict World Cup games is due to chance. But what about everything else?" [Luck and Skill Untangled: The Science of Success]
In 2003, only two colleges charged more than $40,000 a year for tuition, fees, room, and board. Six years later more than two hundred colleges charged that amount. What happened between 2003 and 2009 was the start of the recession. By driving down endowments and giving tax-starved states a reason to cut back their support for higher education, the recession put new pressure on colleges and universities to raise their price. When our current period of slow economic growth will end is anybody’s guess, but even when it does end, colleges and universities will certainly not be rolling back their prices. These days, it is not just the economic climate in which our colleges and universities find themselves that determines what they charge and how they operate; it is their increasing corporatization. If corporatization meant only that colleges and universities were finding ways to be less wasteful, it would be a welcome turn of events. But an altogether different process is going on[more inside]
Ask A Banker: What's The Deal With High Frequency Trading? From the planet money NPR team.
It’s not as though as a society we have become that much stupider than our forbears; it’s because we have become that much more corrupt.
Adam Garfinkle discusses American political dysfunction in one, two, three parts.
Adam Garfinkle discusses American political dysfunction in one, two, three parts.
Ephemeral New York 'chronicles an ever-changing, constantly reinvented city through photos, newspaper archives, and other scraps and artifacts that have been edged into New York’s collective remainder bin.' [more inside]
The iEconomy: Apple and Technology Manufacturing. Since January, the New York Times has been running a series of articles "examining the challenges posed by increasingly globalized high-tech industries," with a focus on Apple's business practices. The seventh article in the series was published today: In Technology Wars, Using the Patent as a Sword. Related: For Software, Cracks in the Patent System and Fighters in the Patent War. [more inside]
Kevin Roose of Nymag.com posted about a brand new North Carolinian hedge fund that seemed less than impressive. The fund then started to use a sarcastic quote from Kevin's post as a kind of ringing endorsement on their website. Uh oh.
The complete guide to America's jobs crisis and the failure of monetary policy using animated gifs
Start Your Own Currency - "In the Catalonia region of Spain, a restaurant and a community garden are part of an experiment in alternative cash--they are accepting a home-grown currency called the Eco as well as the Euro." [viz. gated article (Google link), cf. The Wörgl Experiment]
Electronic Arts allegedly in talks to sell to private equity; would "do a deal for $20 a share". [NYP] [Int. Business Times]. The markets appear to think there's at least some substance to the rumour, as EA shares jumped more than 7% to $14 in early trades on Thursday morning and have remained at around $13.75. [Google Finance chart]
What did Michael Milken, Enron, and Goldman Sachs have in common? Not only were they at the centers of three of the biggest financial scandals of the last 30 years, but it turns out they all used the same financial instrument to help pull off their plans. A Transactional Genealogy of Scandal: from Michael Milken to Enron to Goldman Sachs [more inside]
Financial Markets, Politics and the New Reality: "Louis M. Bacon is the head of Moore Capital Management, one of the largest and most influential hedge funds in the world. Last week, he announced that he was returning one quarter of his largest fund, about $2 billion, to his investors, [saying] it is impossible to make money when there is heavy political involvement, because political involvement introduces unpredictability in the market… Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who modern investors so admire, [never] used the term "economics" by itself, but only in conjunction with politics; they called it political economy… The investors' problem is that they mistake the period between 1991 and 2008 as the norm and keep waiting for it to return."
'You Have a Smart Face': the $120 Million Wire Transfer, the Octopus, the Silencer, and the Corpse in the Alley. An infamous fake trader fakes his own death, gets caught, is released, gets desperate, and is offered entrance into an apparent world of secret government, secret agents, and secret accounts.
An op-ed in today's New York Times promotes replacing public loans for university students with private equity contracts, wherein funding firms would receive a percentage of graduates' earnings. [more inside]
“So if we continue voting like this in the (House of Commons), there’ll be no b-day for me this year?” tweeted NDP MP Hoang Mai.
It is still June 13 for the Parliament of Canada, where voting has continued overnight on the "omnibus budget bill" (previously), due to 159 separate amendment votes that have been forced by the opposition. None are likely to pass, but the arduous process is meant to function as a protest against legislation which many critics have argued goes far beyond the scope of a traditional budget. [more inside]
BitCoin appears to be gaining a measure of stability, at least temporarily, through anger at banks, paypal, visa, etc., the activities of currency traders, and increased activity, as well as the promise of multi-signature transactions. [more inside]
Tails of the Unexpected: "Normality has been an accepted wisdom in economics and finance for a century or more. Yet in real-world systems, nothing could be less normal than normality. Tails should not be unexpected, for they are the rule." An eminently human-readable explanation of why normal models fail to describe the uncertainties of our abnormal world. [more inside]
Curt Schilling, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, retired with an eye toward making games. His 38 Studios bought Big Huge Games, some big-name talent, and got started with Kingdoms of Amalur... with the help of a $75 million guaranteed loan from the state of Rhode Island (not without controversy). The game was good but not great and sales were likewise good but not great. Not great enough to cover the payments on a $75 million loan, anyway, not to mention payroll, and Rhode Island is likely on the hook.
"A Harvard MBA Pays Down $101K Of Debt." Two years after he graduated from Harvard with an MBA, Joe Mihalic, now manager of strategic alliances and business development at Dell, vowed to do “everything in my power–short of lying, cheating, and stealing–to pay down" his student loan debt, (then totaling 90K,) "in the next ten months.” After applying for a weekend delivery job, he also decided to chronicle the steps he was taking on a blog: "No More Harvard Debt." First page of posts is here. Penultimate post explains his process: "Mission Accomplished." [more inside]
My Faith-Based Retirement. NYT business journalist Joe Nocera discusses being financially unable to retire.
The JOBS Act or "Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act" is not really about creating jobs but about loosening regulations on companies planning to IPO. SOX compliance and other financial regulations have made going public an expensive and time consuming process for young companies, and many are now staying private or getting acquired rather than going public. Fewer regulations encourages more IPOs, but what are the unintended consequences of "exempting [companies] from independent accounting requirements for up to five years after they first begin selling shares in the stock market"?
Napkin finance. Each sketch links to a post about investing. From a financial planner best known for losing his house.
The Incentive Bubble (ungated pdf) - "The fraying of the compact of American capitalism by rising income inequality and repeated governance crises is disturbing. But misallocations of financial, real, and human capital arising from the financial-incentive bubble are much more worrisome to those concerned with the competitiveness of the American economy." [more inside]
The New Priesthood - "The hapless economist uses the same tools as acclaimed physicists and astronomers. She has trained for years to speak precisely the same language as them, to understand the same advanced mathematics, to deploy most complex statistical methods which are an essential part of the scientific toolbox. It is, understandably, incredibly difficult to accept that her work is a form of higher order superstition; a religion couched in the language of mathematics and statistics. Tragically, this is precisely what it is." [more inside]
Market Capitalization-to-GDP is an indicator described by Warren Buffet as "probably the best single measure of where [stock market] valuations stand at any given moment." Here is a historical graph of this indicator along with twenty other historical indicator charts covering the US S&P, Japanese Tokyo Stock Exchange and Indian Sensex indices. The indicators include P/E ratios and dividend yields. Also of note: which currencies are under or overvalued according to purchasing power parity.. [more inside]
If you’re elected president,” asked one guest at a 2007 hedge fund managers event for Obama, “what will you do to the taxes on the people in this room?” “I’ll raise them,” Obama fired back. The managers, who share social circles and an educational background with Obama, approved of his style. These days, however, the bloom is off the rose. In The Big Split, Alec MacGillis investigates the souring of a 20 year relationship between Democrats and high finance, and surmises that it's the administration's rhetoric more than its policy that has upset the masters of the financial universe.
Mother Jones: The 10 'Occupy' candidates vying for seats in the US House Of Representatives and Senate and their prospects.
Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs. New York Time Op-Ed. March 14th 2012:
TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.[more inside]
The Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi uses a paper bag to illustrate exactly how the sub-prime mortgage scam worked, and how we're still on the hook for the next catastrophe. [more inside]
Robert Shiller wants to replace much of existing state debt by selling shares of the “earnings” of national economies, in units of 1/trillon GDP.
The Control Revolution And Its Discontents - "the long process of algorithmisation over the last 150 years has also, wherever possible, replaced implicit rules/contracts and principal-agent relationships with explicit processes and rules."
Greece gains another €130bn in bailout funds. It's a nice headline, but the reports suggest it still isn't enough and Newsnight paint a picture of a fracturing Greek society.
Fancy derivatives are mostly gone. Prop trading is gone. There’s less leverage everywhere. Mortgages are back to old-fashioned conservative mortgages—which is a good thing.”
The End of Wall Street As They Knew It After surprisingly successful financial reform, public vilification, and politics that have turned against them, the Masters of the Universe are masters no longer.
Best known for the (exaggerated) tales of her miserliness, Hetty Green was arguably the greatest female investor in history. During the 1907 Bankers' Panic, her loan of $1.1 million helped keep New York City solvent. Her estate - greater than that of J.P. Morgan's - was valued at more than $2 billion in today's money. [more inside]
The seven biggest economic lies with Robert Reich.
A serial intern in the finance sector speaks: "Applying for internships is so tiresome and bruising. It's like dating, you sit by the phone waiting for a call. Back in my days at university I would get up at 5.30am or 6am. First I'd go jogging, then send out an application for an internship. Every morning. It's so painful to hear 'no' all the time."
A Swarthmore College student-reporter's questioning of whether it is moral to go into banking sparks NYT columnist Nick Kristof to not only assert the affirmative, but to argue (in part) that in fact more well-educated, liberally-mined people should go into "conservative" industries like banking in order to reform it from the inside. In effect, Kristof suggests, socialist-leaning, educationally-empowered students should hunker down, swallow their disdain, and apply their ideals to change finance. Said student responds (in Slate): elite, ostensibly liberal-leaning students don't seem to be particularly discouraged from capitalism or going into banking in this climate, and probably never have been.