The Economist

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Guest Post: Proof That Government Economic Numbers Are Being Manipulated





How in the world does the government expect us to trust the economic numbers that they give us anymore? For a long time, many have suspected that they were being manipulated, and as you will see below it appears we now have proof that this is indeed the case.

 
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After Shakedown, Overnight Markets Regain Their Calm





The S&P500 has now gone 47 days without a gain or loss of more than 1% - a feat unmatched since 1995, according to AP.  Overnight markets are having a weaker session across the board (except the US of course). Even the Nikkei is trading with a weak tone (-0.7%) seemingly unimpressed by the Third Arrow reform announcements from Prime Minister Abe yesterday (and considering in Japan the market is entirely dictated by the BOJ, perhaps they could have at least coordinated a "happy" reception of the revised Abe plan). Either that or they have largely been priced in following the sizable rally in Japanese stocks over the past month or so. Abe outlined about a dozen reforms yesterday including changes to the GPIF investment allocations and a reduction in the corporate tax rate to below 30% from the current level of 35%+. Separately, the Hang Seng Index (-0.06%) and the Shanghai Composite (-0.41%) 98closed lower as traders cited dilutive IPOs as a concern for future equity gains.

 
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What Piketty Didn't Say - 13 Facts They Don't Tell You About Economics





Yesterday, Ha-Joon Chang exposed the shortest economics textbook ever. Today the Cambridge University Economics professor uncovers everything you didn't know about economics (in 13 simple points)...

 
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Jim Grant: What Henry Hazlitt Can Teach Us About Inflation In 2014





“Excessively low interest rates are inflationary because they mean that bonds, stocks, real estate and unincorporated businesses are capitalized at excessively high rates, and will fall in value even though the annual income they pay remains the same, if interest rates rise.” If interest rates were artificially low, it would follow that prevailing investment values are artificially high. I contend that they are, and you may or may not agree. Natural interest rates — free-range, organic, sustainable — are what we need. Hot-house interest rates — the government’s puny, genetically modified kind — are the ones we have.

 
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The "Hidden Cost" Of Distraction





The ever-rising ranks of youth unemployment coupled with the increasingly cheap and easy access to "distractions" from the dismal realities of life (if one is not a wealthy leveraged shareholder) mean a lot of potentially productive time is totally and utterly wasted in this world... how much time? As The Economist joking notes, the loony music video “Gangnam Style” surpassed two billion views on YouTube this week, making it the most watched clip of all time. At 4:12 minutes, that equates to more than 140m hours, or more than 16,000 years (the equivalent manpower it would take to build 4 Great Pyramids of Giza or 20 Empire State Buildings). The opportunity cost of watching PSY’s frivolity is huge, but humanity has at least been entertained.

 
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Clothing Naked Experts





You know what the difference is between an Economist/Analyst, and a Business owner? When a Business owner makes a prediction on his or her business and is wrong – the business could wind up in bankruptcy. When the Economist/Analyst makes a wrong prediction about business – they just make another prediction.”

 
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Paul Volcker Proposes A New Bretton Woods System To Prevent "Frequent, Destructive" Financial Crises





We found it surprising that it was none other than Paul Volcker himself who, on May 21 at the annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Committee, said that "by now I think we can agree that the absence of an official, rules-based cooperatively managed, monetary system has not been a great success. In fact, international financial crises seem at least as frequent and more destructive in impeding economic stability and growth." We can, indeed, agree. However, we certainly disagree with Volcker's proposal for a solution to this far more brittle monetary system: a new Bretton Woods.

 
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Market Tranquility Is Sowing The Seeds Of Its Own Demise





The mainstream media is latching on to the idea that all is not well in the world of 'markets'. The FT's Gillian Tett notes that, as we have vociferously explained, almost every measure of volatility has tumbled to unusual low levels, "this is bizarre," she notes, "financial history suggests that at this point in an economic cycle, volatility normally jumps." But investors are acting as if they were living in a calm and predictable universe, "[Investors in] the options markets are not pricing in any big macro risks. This is very unusual." In reality, as Hyman Minsky notes, market tranquility tends to sow the seeds of its own demise and the longer the period of calm, the worse the eventual whiplash. Tett concludes, that pattern played out back in 2007... and there are good reasons to suspect it will recur.

 
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The (Other) Truth About The Financial Crisis: 10 "Geithner-Sized" Myths Exposed





After the crisis, many expected that the blameworthy would be punished or at the least be required to return their ill-gotten gains—but they weren’t, and they didn’t. Many thought that those who were injured would be made whole, but most weren’t. And many hoped that there would be a restoration of the financial safety rules to ensure that industry leaders could no longer gamble the equity of their firms to the point of ruin. This didn’t happen, but it’s not too late. It is useful, then, to identify the persistent myths about the causes of the financial crisis and the resulting Dodd-Frank reform legislation and related implementation...."Plenty of people saw it coming, and said so. The problem wasn’t seeing, it was listening."

 
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"Exceptional" - USA Is Number 1 In... Gambling Losses





Last week we highlighted just how "rigged" the casino really is (real casinos - as opposed to the equity markets) and while that was shocking, the USA can be proud of another exceptionalism... As The Economist notes, at $119 billion in 2013, the United States was the biggest gambling loser in the world. However, on a per capita basis, Australia and Singapore top the list.

 
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Selling War: The World's Biggest Exporters Of Weapons





One glance at the following chart prepared by the Economist, showcasing the world's largest importers of weapons, and more importantly, exporters, and one could almost imagine why both the US and Russia have an interest in a "contained" (or not so much) regional war...

 
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Three Market Factors Which Citi Says Are Worse Now Than In 2007





"You’re picking up pennies on a train track. You are not getting paid much but you are sure that there will be a very negative surprise at some point. The risk / reward profile is as bad as ’07." - Portfolio manager speaking to Citigroup

 
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Which Are The Best Business Schools For The Buck (Spoiler Alert: Not Harvard Or Wharton)





As the San Fran Fed recently explained, when it looked at the upside of a college education, it found that the average college graduate earns over "$800,000 more than the average high school graduate by retirement age." What was ignored is the offsetting cost to this upside in terms of hundreds of thousands of college loans bearing compounding interest that are just as sticky and in increasingly more cases also remain with the graduate until retirement. But what about business schools? For those professionals who have already picked a career in finance or business, and who are willing to spending even more ridiculous amounts of money for a piece of paper and a rolodex, which business schools offer the best bank for the buck?

 
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Name The Continent: It Accounts For 7% Of The World's Population, 25% Of GDP And 50% Of Welfare Spending





Angela Merkel has a favourite mantra to offer troubled euro-zone countries: they should copy Germany. As The Economist notes, she put it last autumn: "What we have done, everyone else can do." Fifteen years ago, so she says, her country was widely regarded as the sick man of Europe; then it opted for fiscal austerity, cut labour costs and embraced structural reforms, turning it into an economic powerhouse. However, there is another mantra Mrs Merkel likes to repeat to her colleagues: Europe accounts for 7% of the world’s population, 25% of GDP and 50% of social-welfare spending. The Economist, and George Soros believe, Germany’s current course will exacerbate that problem as Europe's biggest economy is backsliding on structural reforms (as she preaches pre-growth reforms but implements anti-growth ones).

 
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The Quest To Freeze "Putin's Billions"





For years, the suspicion that Mr. Putin has a secret fortune has intrigued scholars, industry analysts, opposition figures, journalists and intelligence agencies but defied their efforts to uncover it. Numbers are thrown around suggesting that Putin may control $40 billion or even $70 billion, in theory making him not only the richest head of state in world history but possibly the richest man alive in the world today, period. Now, the quest to track down, and isolate, Putin's billions launches in earnest.

 
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