Monthly Archives: July 2008

Extra Credit, Thursday Edition

Scholastic puts the blame on "Do Not Call Registry": One of the lamest corporate excuses of all time. Shorts Crack the Code: This appeared in the NYT Business headlines for some reason; it’s not what you think, but it is … Continue reading

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Blog Rankings

I’m not a fan of lists, and I’m especially not a fan of top-blogs lists. But I’m kinda tickled by Wikio’s August blog ranking: Hey look, Market Movers is higher up than really great blogs like Wooster Collective and Stuff … Continue reading

Posted in statistics, technology | Comments Off

SWFs vs Free Trade

Matt Cooper says that sovereign wealth funds are "the opposite of free trade" and "anathema to a free-market economy". I don’t see why that should be the case: if anything, the funds are a natural consequence of free trade. If … Continue reading

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Q2 GDP: Looking at the GDP Deflator

Edward Harrison makes a good point about the unreliability of GDP numbers: the headline GDP number is equal to nominal GDP growth minus the GDP deflator — a measure of broad inflation. When the Q4 2007 GDP growth was revised … Continue reading

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Carl Icahn Gets Bloggier

It’s well known that one of the first things that happens to grown men after they get a blog is that they get SIWOTI disease. And Carl Icahn, it seems, is no exception. He still feels constrained from putting up … Continue reading

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The Limits of GDP Statistics

Zubin has the quarter-by-quarter GDP chart; he, like many others, is particularly taken that in the fourth quarter of 2007, the GDP figure fell below zero. But while the Q4 revision from +0.6% to -0.2% was big, the Q2 revision … Continue reading

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The Problems With For-Profit Microlending

After posting about the spat between Muhammad Yunus and Compartamos yesterday, I found a recent Economist editorial in favor of the Mexican for-profit lender. Since it’s one of the more lucid arguments in favor of the for-profit model, it’s worth … Continue reading

Posted in banking, development | Comments Off

Towards the Command-and-Control Economy

On a day when David Weidner jokingly proposes the "no-loss sale" rule (no selling a stock for a price lower than the last trade), Barry Ritholtz has anecdotal evidence that Wachovia, for one, is refusing to let its clients short … Continue reading

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Free Zimbabwe’s Banks!

As Zimbabwe knocks another ten (yes, ten) zeroes off its currency, the central bank governor, Gideon Gono, is optimistic that somehow this will do some good: so optimistic, in fact, that he’s reintroducing coins. It won’t work, of course. Something … Continue reading

Posted in economics, emerging markets, foreign exchange | Comments Off

Extra Credit, Wednesday Edition

No News, Little Movement: Lots of noise, no signal in July’s financial markets. The Father of Wine Economics? "[Adam] Smith’s treatment of wine is not complete – there is no discussion of cork versus screw-cap, for example, and no treatment … Continue reading

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Marion Maneker, Art-Market Blogger Extraordinaire

What is it about blogs launched in May this year? Yesterday I lauded John Hempton of Bronte Capital; today I flicked through the archive of Art Market Monitor, and was blown away at the sophistication and insight of its blogger, … Continue reading

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Muhammad Yunus vs Microlending “Loan Sharks”

BusinessWeek’s Steve Hamm has a good overview of the latest dust-up in the world of microfinance, where industry Top Dog Muhammad Yunus has started lashing out at for-profit microlenders like Mexico’s Compartamos, accusing them of "moving into the same mental … Continue reading

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Buying Berkshire

I’m not really a stock-market kinda guy, but there’s a handful of individual stocks, foremost among them Apple, which seem to be able to transcend financial-asset status and be of interest to a much broader audience, including me. And one … Continue reading

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World Bank Biofuels Report Finally Released

Three weeks ago, the Guardian’s Aditya Chakrabortty published "the biofuels report they didn’t want you to read": the research paper from the World Bank’s Don Mitchell saying that 75% of the rise in global food prices could be attributed to … Continue reading

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The Mystery of Merrill’s Asset Reduction

Alea is as eagle-eyed as ever: The most important and most ignored sentence in Merrill’s press release: The sale will reduce Merrill Lynch’s risk-weighted assets by approximately $29 billion. How is this possible? After all, last month the CDOs being … Continue reading

Posted in banking, bonds and loans | Comments Off

The Economics of Checked Baggage

What to make of Delta’s new sliding scale for checking bags? On domestic flights, the first bag is free, the second is $50, and the third is $125. This kind of thing is the exact opposite of most retail economics, … Continue reading

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Computers in the Oval Office

In England, they call it "silly season": the slow-news days of the summer where newspapers find themselves forced to run faux-provocative opinion pieces, just because there’s nothing else to fill the newshole. It was surely only a matter of time … Continue reading

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Bandwidth Datapoint of the Day

Tim Wu: Americans today spend almost as much on bandwidth — the capacity to move information — as we do on energy. A family of four likely spends several hundred dollars a month on cellphones, cable television and Internet connections, … Continue reading

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Extra Credit, Tuesday Edition

Wine connoisseurs – I call them cons: The real lesson of the Judgment of Paris isn’t that California wines were better than French wines. It’s that wine tasters, when they’re really tasting blind, are clueless. How Good Is The Mainstream … Continue reading

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The Curious Case of Hernan Arbizu, Part 4

Hernan Arbizu (see entries passim, parts 1, 2, 3) has been arrested in Argentina! He’s charged with embezzling about $5.4 million from bank clients. Martha Graybow reports: He was arrested on Monday in Buenos Aires and is being held by … Continue reading

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When Banks Hide Fees in FX Rates

I just transferred some money from my US bank account to a vendor in the UK. Citibank’s wire-transfer fee was a modest flat rate of $20 — or so I thought until I looked at the exchange rate, which was … Continue reading

Posted in banking, foreign exchange | Comments Off

John Hempton, Financial Blogger Extraordinaire

In mid-May, Australian fund manager John Hempton started a blog which is already one of the best in the world for serious analysis of finance investment ideas on both the long and the short side. Coming back from holiday today … Continue reading

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Hirst at Sotheby’s

A pair of unembeddable YouTube videos appeared quietly last Friday, and have made not much of a splash: Damien Hirst Beautiful Inside My Head Forever 1 and Damien Hirst Beautiful Inside My Head Forever 2 have been viewed less than … Continue reading

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Do Covered Bonds Have a Government Guarantee?

Steve Waldman reckons he’s worked out what the problem is with covered bonds: A covered bond offered by Citi or Bank of America would only default if a titan collapsed. Investors might reasonably believe that would not be permitted to … Continue reading

Posted in bonds and loans, housing | Comments Off

House Prices: Bad, but Abating

Wow, those house prices are looking dreadful, aren’t they. Check out the headline on the front page of "Home Price Index Down 15.8% in May" is the story. And the official press release from Case-Shiller is also very alarming: … Continue reading

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