The Economist

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Why You Should Ignore Everything That Comes Out Of Davos (In One Chart)





If, as we are constantly told by the mainstream media, equity market performance is all that matters in the real world, then the following chart from The Economist should provide much food for thought for those praying at the altar of the elites in Davos. Despite hanging on their every word as if handed down by The Oracle herself, 'companies that regularly attend Davos' have dramatically underperformed the broad market... so, in the modern parlance of 'stocks are all that matters' - Davos attendees are less smart than the average business manager (and perhaps less smart given the costs of attendance for this lack of edge).

 


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Hope In The Face Of Disaster – Creating A Sustainable, Viable, Future Path For Civilisation





... We have created an apparently wonderful economic model that seems to provide us with so many benefits. When you consider the incredible feats of technology and the global consumerist lifestyle we enjoy it is easy to marvel at what has been achieved. Of course what may be less obvious is the dark side of the growth economic model which is deeply inequitable, restricting its benefits to the relative elite in the western world and trapping the rest of the world in poverty. Most dangerous of all is the unsustainability of the model and where it is taking us in the future. There is now a perfect storm gathering that includes economic indebtedness, resource shortages, population pressures, and climate change that is guaranteed to derail civilisation. Despite this the political and economic mainstream are largely in denial about what is happening– like the hapless engineer and politician in the story everyone agrees that we must restart the ‘growth economy’ and continue to progress down the business as usual pathway. Very few people are taking the long term view and watching the direction towards doom that this pathway leads us. Too invested in the benefits of our current lifestyle, no one wants to hear the counsel of the philosopher who sees the disaster that looms ahead.

 


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For Too Many Americans, College Today Isn't Worth It





The economist Herbert Stein once said that if something can't go on forever, it will stop. The pattern of the last few decades, in which higher education costs grew much faster than incomes, with the difference made up by borrowing, can't go on forever... There is no point in trying to preserve the old regime as "working your way through college" is now impossible. For an 18-year-old, investing such a six-figure sum in an education without a payoff makes no more sense than buying a Ferrari on credit.

 


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Where The Global Economic Growth In 2014 Is Expected To Come From - Country Breakdown





When it comes to setting the prevailing economist groupthink, nobody does it better than the economists at JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs. Which is why the following chart of projected 2014 GDP growth by quarter in the Developed and Emerging World from JPM, explains succinctly just where the groupthink now expects marginal global growth will come from (Mexico, South Africa, Korea, UK, Italy?). We show it just because the economist consensus is always wrong when it comes to the important inflection points (see ECB rate cut decision, Taper off decision, Taper on, the great financial crisis, "subprime is contained", etc). So for those curious to know what most likely will not happen in the new year, this chart's for you.

 


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Alan Greenspan's Modest Proposal: Fix Broken Economic Models By... Modeling Irrational "Animal Spirits"





We leave it to everyone's supreme amusement to enjoy the Maestro's full non-mea culpa essay, but we will highlight Greenspan's two most amusing incosistencies contained in the span of a few hundred words. On one hand the former Chairman admits that "The financial crisis [...] represented an existential crisis for economic forecasting. The conventional method of predicting macroeconomic developments -- econometric modeling, the roots of which lie in the work of John Maynard Keynes -- had failed when it was needed most, much to the chagrin of economists." On the other, his solution is to do... more of the same: "if economists better integrate animal spirits into our models, we can improve our forecasting accuracy. Economic models should, when possible, measure and forecast systematic human behavior and the tendencies of corporate culture.... Forecasters may never approach the fantasy success of the Oracle of Delphi or Nostradamus, but we can surely improve on the discouraging performance of the past." So, Greenspan's solution to the failure of linear models is to... model animal spirits, or said otherwise human irrationality. Brilliant.

 


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Clean Energy Presents "Perfect Storm" For Utilities





A new report from UBS finds that renewable energy and energy storage are together presenting a “perfect storm” for big utilities. The declining cost of solar, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle technologies threaten to upend centralized electricity generation, putting the utility business model in jeopardy. Grid parity has already been achieved in certain parts of the world where conventional electricity rates are high and renewable resources are plentiful.

 


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Larry Summers On Why "Stagnation Might Be The New Normal"... And Bubbles





"If secular stagnation concerns are relevant to our current economic situation, there are obviously profound policy implications... Some have suggested that a belief in secular stagnation implies the desirability of bubbles to support demand. This idea confuses prediction with recommendation. It is, of course, better to support demand by supporting productive investment or highly valued consumption than by artificially inflating bubbles. On the other hand, it is only rational to recognize that low interest rates raise asset values and drive investors to take greater risks, making bubbles more likely. So the risk of financial instability provides yet another reason why preempting structural stagnation is so profoundly important."

 


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Guest Post: Ukraine’s Two New Energy Deals





If one was to believe the picture that most Western media outlets are painting, Ukraine has been lost to Russia. Though the country fought valiantly to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union in Vilnius, Lithuania last month, President Viktor Yanukovych suspended negotiations with the EU at the last possible moment, betraying Ukrainians everywhere. Two recent energy deals that Ukraine has reportedly made, one with Russia and the other with Slovakia, however, show that the reality of the situation is slightly more complex.

 


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On The Taper Timing, It's The WSJ vs The NYT





Just out from the NYT's Fed watcher Appelbaum:

Fed’s Plan to Taper Stimulus Effort Not Expected Until Next Year

At the same time, out from the WSJ's Hilsenrath:

Fed Closes In On Winding Down Bond Purchasing

Who is right? Are both right? Are both wrong? Does anyone even care? Far more relevant is what is the Fed's price target for the Monday and year end close.

 


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Guest Post: The State Causes The Poverty It Later Claims To Solve





The reigning paper money system is at the center of the growing income inequality and expanding poverty rates we find in many countries today. Nevertheless, states continue to grow in power in the name of taming the market system that has supposedly caused the impoverishment actually caused by the state and its allies. If those who claim to speak for social justice do nothing to protest this, their silence can only have two possible reasons. They either don’t understand how our monetary system functions, in which case, they should do their research and learn about it; or they do understand it and are cynically ignoring a major source of poverty because they may in fact be benefiting from the paper money system themselves.

 


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Thailand Police & Military Step Aside As Anti-Government Protesters Reach PM's Office; Declare Victory





As the "peoples' coup" in Thailand gets the blessing of the country's Military leader (who stated he would not intervene), the police have also undertaken an unexpected reversal of strategy by removing barriers from the heavily fortified police and government buildings. The government no longer wants to confront the protesters in the 3rd of fighting with 3 dead and at least 230 injured. As AP reports, the protesters have made no attempts (yet) to enter Government House but are milling around the entrance. The government has 'asked' people to stay inside and police helicopters are reportedly dropping leaflets warning demonstrators to move out of the rally sites (on grounds of insurrection and possibel death penalty). The anti-government protesters have declared "victory" as the police state "there will be no tear gas today."

 


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53% Of Bankers Say Ethics Inhibit Career Progression - Here's Why





The Economist found, rather sadly, despite all the glad-handing and happy-talk, that 53% of financial services executives believed that strict adherence to ethical conduct would make career progression difficult. As this former Wall Street trader told The Guardian, "a precedent needs to be set, to slow down Wall Street's wild behavior. A reminder that rules are there to be followed, not exploited." The reason, among others, is summed up by the following, "if a customer wants a red suit, you sell them a red suit. If that customer is Japanese, you charge him twice what it costs."

 


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The 0.01% Have Never Had It Better





Over the years, as the WSJ notes, the only way inequality has really mattered to professional investors is 'if the rich are getting richer, companies that cater to them have better prospects'. Lately, though, some big investors have worried increasing income and wealth gaps threaten the economy's ability to expand (discussed here and here most recently.) One reason U.S. corporate profit margins are at records is the share of revenue going to wages is so low. An economy where income and wealth disparities are smaller might be healthier; but it would also leave less money flowing to the bottom line, something that is increasingly grabbing fund managers' attention.

 


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3 Warning Signs Of A Potential Bloodbath Ahead





Recent activity in asset markets suggests dangerous bubbles are building everywhere. It's time to bunker down and we look at ways to best protect your capital.

 


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