by phil - October 26th, 2010 8:10 am
This was an interesting event!
On May 17th 1792, twenty-four stock brokers met under a buttonwood tree outside 68 Wall Street and agreed to set up the New York Stock and Exchange board. The tree was a symbol of Wall Street, but also, it was where people originally met to trade, to discuss and to argue.
The Economist has done an excellent job of keeping the tradition alive by bringing together top global financial executives, policymakers, global regulators and opinion leaders to discuss and debate proposed guidelines for the financial community, seeking to bridge fundamental financial issues with macroeconomic and geopolitical viewpoints.
As I mentioned yesterday, I usually don’t like conferences but not only did I find myself sitting between BOE Governor Mervyn King and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz but we got to watch my favorite economics rap video together and even met the guys who created it from EconStories, who have lots of good videos on their site (of a more serious nature).
The conference itself does not take itself too seriously. Even Nassim Taleb was able to make a few jokes while explaining to us why the financial system is irrevocably screwed up unless we give it a major overhaul. Taleb’s main points were:
- People are inherently greedy.
- The Financial Crisis was caused by and increase of hidden risks that was encouraged by the rules set forth in Basel II
- Multiple exposure to low-probability, high-risk events accumulate to high probability of bad outcome (Taleb’s "Black Swan").
- Bonus packages and compensation encourage very bad risky behavior. Stock options that offer potential upside and no downside encourage the maxing of risk-taking by potential beneficiaries.
- This leads to a banking system where all the traders get rich and all the investors become poor.
- There is a general,.chronic underestimation of risk and business schools reinforce this bad behavior.
- Regulation gives investors a false sense of security.
- Capitalism must be symmetrical – bonus without penalties (clawbacks, etc.) must be eliminated.
When I am at one of these conferences, I like to watch the audience reaction to what is being said. Here we have a gathering of the World’s movers and shakers and sometimes the reaction to what is being said is more important than the thing that is said. For instance, my note on Taleb’s comment that regulations give investors a false sense of security is that…
by ilene - May 14th, 2010 11:25 am
Courtesy of Marla Singer, Zero Hedge
On the 5th of March in 1946, in Fulton Missouri, at Westminster College, Winston Churchill delivered an address (since christened the "Sinews of Peace") lamenting the burgeoning power and influence being slowly but surely gathered up by the Soviet Union. Perhaps the address will be familiar to some of you owing to its most famous passage:
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone — Greece with its immortal glories — is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation.
Ironic, as I will address, that he should mention Greece.
Much less well known perhaps is this later passage:
Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement. What is needed is a settlement, and the longer this is delayed, the more difficult it will be and the greater our dangers will become.1
The "Iron Curtain" came, of course, to signify the cavernous ideological, and eventually concretely physical, divide between East and West. It took some 43 years before it was lifted once more, first and haltingly, in the form of the removal of Hungary’s border fence in mid-1989 and then, of course, finally via the fall of the Berlin Wall in November that same year.
Not to be compared with a production of Italian Opera, the Iron Curtain did not describe a sudden, smooth, abrupt descent over the stages of Eastern Europe. Quite the contrary, its drop was in stutters of discrete, fractional lowerings, such that it was a full fifteen years after Churchill used the term before its ultimate expression, the Berlin Wall, was finally…
by ilene - April 2nd, 2010 11:39 am
From The Economist:
It is becoming clear that reserves of olive oil will peak in the coming decade, as climate change wipes out most of the groves in the Mediterranean, the main production zone.
Who says The Economist is too dry? I’m re-upping my subscription. Funny stuff, guys.
by ilene - August 24th, 2009 11:21 am
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
From The Economist:
THERE are tentative signs of stabilisation in America’s housing market. The S&P/Case-Shiller index, which tracks home prices in 20 cities, ticked up slightly in May, its first gain in 34 months. New construction of single-family homes rose in July for the fifth straight month, while sales of existing homes are expected to show their fourth consecutive month of gains when latest numbers are released on August 21st. Dig deeper, however, and the recovery’s foundations look shaky. A glut of supply will also weigh on prices, thanks to a wave of repossessions. Seized properties now account for almost one in four sales. Some 23% of homes with mortgages are underwater by one estimate, and others are even higher. Deutsche Bank’s securitisation team expects negative equity to peak at 48% of total homes by 2011.
Source: The Economist