Monthly Archives: March 2007

Incomprehensible charts in the NYT

I very much admire the anonymous chart-makers at the New York Times. They generally do a magnificent job of presenting information in a clean, easy to understand, and often very clever manner. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they’d … Continue reading

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What would Goldilocks make of Q4 GDP?

Economists are pretty bad at predicting the future (how fast will the economy grow next quarter?). They’re also pretty bad at predicting the present (how fast is the economy growing this quarter?). And, it turns out, they’re equally bad at … Continue reading


Stock or Not

Some kind of genius: Stock or Not? Josh Reich has written a lovely little web app which puts two charts side by side. One is a real stock, the other is randomly generated. Can you tell which is which? I … Continue reading

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Alex Ross live!

If you’re under the age of 35, reading this blog, and free on Sunday, I’m pretty sure that the last thing you want to do is schlep up to 92nd Street at the tender hour of 11 in the morning. … Continue reading

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Economics 101

I think we should implement a new corollary to Godwin’s Law — call it McArdle’s Law, after this blog entry at Free Exchange — saying that any time someone mentions “Economics 101″ in a debate, they’ve automatically lost. The point … Continue reading


Felix Salmon to blog for Portfolio

It’s in WWD, so I guess that makes it public: I’ve signed on as the finance blogger for, which goes live in mid-April. It’s a big commitment for me — it really is a full-time job, although I don’t … Continue reading


Counterfeiting statistics, New Yorker edition

As any regular reader of this website knows, all counterfeiting statistics are bullshit. Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of Harley Lewin in the March 19 issue isn’t online, but it’s a prime example of the problem. I’m sure that what happened is … Continue reading


Sell-side analysis wants to be free!

Merrill Lynch is worried that too many people are reading its research. Yes, too many. Reports DealBook: Merrill Lynch said it plans to eliminate all access to its research from nonclients and to put new restrictions on the media’s access … Continue reading


Banks’ real-estate exposure: Nothing to worry about

Whenever there’s a banking crisis, there seems to be a very good chance that preceding it came some kind of property bubble. Banks have a habit of assuming that secured loans are secure loans, and loaning out enormous chunks of … Continue reading


Classical music sales: booming or collapsing?

Journalism, like any other field, is shy when it comes to admitting ignorance. If a journalist wants to write about a subject, he’ll search and search for a self-proclaimed expert until he finds someone who will opine with enough certainty … Continue reading


The $600,000 parking spot

In a post last year, I looked at the value of parking spaces in Manhattan — at least there was a lot of discussion on that subject in the comments. The general upshot was that parking spaces seem to be … Continue reading

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Conventional wisdom debunker, cooking with wine edition

“Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.” You know that, right? It’s drilled into even those of us who don’t cook very much, and from an early age. But, it turns out, it’s kinda — well, it’s bullshit. The … Continue reading


Driving the wrong way down the street

Can New Yorkers drive the wrong way down one-way streets with impunity? I’ve certainly seen this happen many times. One very frequent place it happens is the south side of Delancey Street, alongside the Williamsburg Bridge between Clinton and Ridge. … Continue reading

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How can a retail investor borrow yen?

An interesting comment just appeared on an old blog of mine: Can you explain, how can a individual investor borrow yen to buy CAD$? It’s a good question. The fact is that there is a huge universe of investment opportunities … Continue reading


NYT factoid of the day

In the case of breaking news, especially during daytime hours, stories are edited through our Continuous News Desk, which has a separate editing staff but no designated copy editors. Which just makes me want to know who writes the headlines … Continue reading

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Is wine really an investment?

Via Alphaville, I found myself today at Decanter’s wine investment guide — something which made for a very interesting read, given that I have just finished a book on Robert Parker. Parker will tell anyone who’ll listen that they should … Continue reading


Adventures in mortgage hype, Breaking Views edition

I popped over to Breaking Views just now to see what they had to say about Barclays buying ABN Amro, and what’s the big top headline? “Subprime meltdown echoes dotcom death spiral“. The story itself is pretty smart and sober, … Continue reading


How long can nominal house prices fall?

Me, yesterday: The chances of a nominal fall in house prices over the next five years are, I think, de minimis. Well, I certainly seem to have got that one wrong. First dsquared and then BR, in the comments, pointed … Continue reading



My computer went to sleep last night, and never woke up! It was working great when I went to bed, but this morning it was quite dead, and refused all attempts at coaxing it into waking up. I was meeting … Continue reading


Dean Baker vs Chris Cagan

I have a lot of respect for the research of Christopher Cagan at First American CoreLogic. His latest paper, a 118-page study of the impact of ARM adjustment, was picked up by the Wall Street Journal, in a story which … Continue reading


LA question

I’m now back from LA. Everybody there loves it, and frankly they’re welcome to it. The way that everybody needs to drive everywhere for everything is just not my style at all. But I do understand the attraction of LA, … Continue reading


Whither mortgages and housing?

Markets fell on Tuesday, on fears, we are told, about weakness in mortgages and housing; this prompted Brad Setser to ask me whether I’m still as sanguine as I used to be on such matters. I couldn’t reply on Wednesday, … Continue reading


Help me change my mind on mortgages!

Brad Setser asks whether I’ve changed my mind about the mortgage market in the wake of today’s data and the market’s reaction to it. I haven’t really looked at either yet, and tomorrow I’m going to be spending the day … Continue reading


Can the amount of alpha keep up with the number of hedge funds chasing it?

Whither alpha? Alexander Campbell, in fine form, officiates at a debate between David Rowe and Barry Schachter. All of them, refreshingly, reject the idea that there’s some limited supply of alpha, and that as the number of hedge funds and … Continue reading

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Simple bond mathematics

Dean Baker doesn’t seem to quite understand how the inverse relation between price and yield works in practice: Back in the summer of 2003, the interest rate on the 10-year treasury bond bottomed out at 3.05 percent. Today, it stands … Continue reading